Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

2 February 2017

The ethnocentric individual will judge other groups relative to his or her own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion. These ethnic distinctions and sub-divisions serve to define each ethnicity’s unique cultural identity. [ Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual human’s beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual’s own culture. This principle was established as axiomatic in anthropological research by Franz Boas in the first few decades of the 20th century and later popularized by his students.

Boas first articulated the idea in 1887: “… civilization is not something absolute, but … is relative, and … our ideas and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes. “[1] but did not actually coin the term “cultural relativism. ” The first use of the term recorded in the Oxford English Dictionary Ethnocentrism leads us to make false assumptions about cultural differences. We are ethnocentric when we use our cultural norms to make generalizations about other peoples’ cultures and customs.

Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism Essay Example

Such generalizations — often made without a conscious awareness that we’ve used our culture as a universal yardstick — can be way off base and cause us to misjudge other peoples. Ethnocentrism can lead to cultural misinterpretation and it often distorts communication between human beings. Ethnocentric thinking causes us to make wrong assumptions about other people because . . . Ethnocentrism leads us to make premature judgments. “They” may not be very good at what we are best at. By evaluating “them” by what we are best at, we miss the many other aspects of life that they often handle more competently than we do.

Some very simple examples of ethnocentric thinking. . . We often talk about British drivers driving “on the wrong side” of the road. Why not just say “opposite side” or even “left hand side”? We talk about written Hebrew as reading “backward. ” Why not just say “from right to left” or “in the opposite direction from English. ” We encourage SNU students going on short-term missions to use the phrase “Oh, that’s different” rather than more pejorative terms when encountering strange customs or foods. by Lea

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