According to Marshall H. Segal, Piere R. Dasen, John W. Berry, and Ype Poortinga stated in Human Behavior in Global Perspective, “Culture anthropology has also contributed to the interest in everyday cognition. By its very nature, ethnography is the science of the everyday.” Daily, people think, learn, view, and then make perceptions about what they see depending on what they know. Usually, they build up systems of cognition for their individual interactions. From small views such as roles of sexes, role of a child or a parent in a family, family values, people’s standards of living, to bigger screens such as national and international issues, all kinds of perceptions are created based on people’s own experiences. “Culture, and especially language, play a key role in cognitive development”. (Marshall H. Degall, P.E.D, J.W.B, Y.P, 1999).
Naturally, people, even teenagers, think that they are always right when judging others. Based on that conception, Ethnocentrism presides. “Ethnocentrism is the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one's own culture. Ethnocentrism often entails the belief that one's own race or ethnic group is the most important and/or that some or all aspects of its culture are superior to those of other groups.” (Wikepedia). Additionally, Ken Barger from Department of Anthropology, IUPUI, Indiana, defined Ethnocentrism as: “making false assumptions about others' ways based on our own limited experience.” Ken Barger also stated a sad truth, “Everybody is ethnocentric, as all of us around the world assume things about other people's ways.” He explained about the problems that would happen if a scientist applied Ethnocentrism in his or her theory. “Ethnocentrism leads to misunderstanding others. We falsely distort what is meaningful and functional to other peoples through our own tinted glasses. We see their ways in terms of our life experience, not their context. We do not understand that their ways have their own meanings and functions in life, just as our ways have for us.” Thus, many conflicts between social groups would rise because of the misunderstanding and misleading. “Ethnocentrism is also evident in international relations, creating conflicts and inhibiting resolution of conflicts.” For him, a great numbers of books, movies, or story telling are products of ethnocentrism. They would cause tragedies for many people, races, or sexes. The reason was very simple. People act or react based on their existing limited experience. Howard Culbertson, Southern Nazarene University added, “Ethnocentrism also distorts communication between human beings.” And “Ethnocentrism leads us to make premature judgments.”
Three kinds of Ethnocentrism.
Usually, people, with their limited experience, look at something they did not have chances to watch previously as something “strange”, “abnormal”, or “weird”. “A person who is born into a particular culture and grows up absorbing the values and behaviors of the culture will develop patterns of thought reflecting the culture as normal.” (Wikepedia). Thus, everything else is abnormal. Worse than that, on the viewpoint of the ethnocentric persons who inherit the best culture of all, they consider all the cultures that they don’t like as invalid, harmful to the world, and need to be eliminated.
Generally, there are three kinds of ethnocentrism: Afrocentrism, Eurocentrism, and Sinocentrism.
“Afrocentrists commonly contend that Eurocentrism has led to the neglect or denial of the contributions of African people and focused instead on a generally European-centered model of world civilization and history.” (Wikepedia). Indeed, African people was the first civilized people in the world and contributed a great deal to the early stage of civilization of the world throught their arts, water system, and Pyramids. They were the first people who knew to do crafting on gold pieces. However, due to the skin color of the Egyptian, people do not recognize them as African although they lived right at the North-East of Africa. Egyptians are real Africans. In recent centuries, African-Americans still suffered from serious discriminations caused by ethnocentrists who did not give the Blacks equal opportunities to live in the same world.
Eurocentrism assumed that Europeans were superior to all other people. European imperalism started in 15th century, and reached its highest level in 19th century. Based on that notion, Europeans traveled around the world, invaded and governed all weak nations like Africa, Pacific Islands, Arabia, Persia, India, China, Mexico, Peru, Phillipine, and Australia. The invaders subdued all weak cultures and forced them to follow the conquerers’ culture.
In the same way that Europeans did, China considered itself as the center of the Asian world. They named themselves, Center Flower. For them, all East Asia belonged to them. Chinese leaders drew map that included all small countries at the southeast region: Vietnam, Japan, Indonesia, Malaysia, Thai, and Cambode. That is Sinocentrism. Sadly enough, the ethnocentrist in China nowadays still preside. After killed about 30 million of their own people in the decades of 20s and 30s, Mao Tsetung and his descendants kept looking over South East Asia and planned to occupy those nations through its great military support and political influence. South East Asia nations are still struggle with that Sinocentrism.
The dangerous consequences of ethnocentrism.
Generally, the ethnocentrists are very aggressive. They do not like to sit and watch other cultures. They want to invade, to eliminate, or to convert all other cultures to their “subordinates”. Whoever dared to fight for their freedom will be destroyed. The most clear example of this notion was the World War I and World War II. Both wars were ignited by the ethnocentrists in Europe. In America, ethnocentrists hung hundred thousands of the black slaves since 17th century. For few hundred years, the fates of the Black Americans were belonged to the supreme whites. Besides the World Wars, many civilizations were eliminated due to the invades of the European ethnocentrists. Wars now still happen at many countries just because of the supreme thoughts of supreme people who have supreme weapons.
The need to eliminate Ethnocentrism.
Due to the inaccuracy, the limitation, and the dangerous notions of Ethnocentrism, many scientists, anthropoligists urged to eliminated ethnocentrism to prevent some misunderstanding that might lead to greater conflicts or greater war. Franz Boas and Bronislaw Malinowski “argued that any human science had to transcend the ethnocentrism of the scientist. Both urged anthropologists to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in order to overcome their ethnocentrism. Boas developed the principle of cultural relativism and Malinowski developed the theory of functionalism as guides for producing non-ethnocentric studies of different cultures” (Wikepedia).
Ruth Benedict (1934), in Patterns of Culture, believed that cultural relativism was the most effective tool to transcend ethnocentrism. She believed that each culture had its own values that had to be respected due to the values were unique and displayed the special traits of each culture. Ruth stated, “It was wrong to disparage the customs or values of a culture different from one's own.” She explained that morality “was relative to the values of the culture in which one operated.” After doing surveys on several different values from the Kwakiutls of the Northwest Coast, the Pueblos of New Mexico, the nations of the Great Plains, and the Dobu culture of New Guinea, she argued that each of those culture had its own values that needed to be respected, although it might seem “strange” with a number of people.
Marshall H. Segal, Piere R. Dasen, John W. Berry, and Ype Poortinga. Human Behavior in Global Perspective: An Introduction to Cross-Cultural Psychology, Second Edition., 1999. A Peason Education Company.
Howard Culbertson, Southern Nazarene University, 2008.
Ken Barger. Ethnocentrism. 2003. Indiana Publishing.
Ethnocentrism. Retrieved on January 27, 2008 from: