Towards Ethnorelativism - Milton J Bennett

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Title of the Article: Towards Ethnorelativism: A Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity. Author of the Article: Milton J. Bennett
Date of the Article:
Subject or Class for which you read the Article: Organisational Behaviour Week #: Session 5: Culture
Author of summary:
Date of Summary: 17/01/2013
Towards Ethnorelativism: A Development Model of Intercultural Sensitivity.

High Level Summary:
Organized into six “stages” of increasing sensitivity to difference, the article identifies the underlying cognitive orientations individuals use to understand cultural difference. Each position along the continuum represents increasingly complex perceptual organizations of cultural difference, which in turn allow increasingly sophisticated experiences of other cultures. By identifying the underlying experience of cultural difference, predictions about behavior and attitudes can be made and education can be tailored to facilitate development along the continuum. Summary of the article:

Ethnocentrism is, according to Bennett, “the assumption that one’s own culture is central to all reality”. To move “away” from this, he suggests three “Ethnocentric pitfalls” to overcome (Denial, Defence, and Minimisation) and then three “Ethnorelative approaches” (Acceptance, Adaptation, and Integration) to achieve this: “Ethnocentric pitfalls”

I. Denial
A denial of difference is the purest form of ethnocentrism. Even in the face of seemingly obvious differences in human behaviour associated with world affairs or domestic multicultural issues, a person at this stage of development believes that cultural diversity only occurs elsewhere. While this form of ethnocentrism might seem rare in an intercommunicating world, the appearance of this position can be maintained through isolation or separation caused by intentional physical and social barriers.

Isolation
Physical isolation can foster the denial of the existence of difference. From a position of relatively pure isolation, cultural differences are not experienced at all (they have no meaning). Condition of “no categories of cultural difference”. Example given of a foreign student placed in an American school and expected to be “nice” by American standards. People also maintain “wide categories for cultural difference”, like noticing the difference between Asians and Westerners, but less likely to notice differences between Japanese, Chinese, and Vietnamese etc. Separation

Separation here is intentional physical or social barriers from cultural difference put in place as a means of maintaining a state of denial (like Apartheid). “More separation from foreign influence seems to eventuate in greater isolation, which breeds more separation”. Developmental Strategies

At the denial stage of sensitivity, the best technique for development is “cultural awareness” activities (like an International night, Multicultural weeks, or similar functions). This creates more differentiation. Things like this, as well as political discussions or lectures, serve as a way of simple recognition of difference. The strategy here is to avoid discussion of really significant cultural differences, which could in turn be used to maintain the denial. II. Defence

Refers to a “posture intended to counter the impact of specific differences perceived as threatening”. Defence battle against difference progresses through three forms: Denigrations, Superiority, and reversal. Denigration

Most common strategy to counter the threat of difference is to evaluate it negatively (negative stereotyping). Easy to recognise in individuals and, occasionally, entire groups. As predicted by the model, defence should be expected in people who have just come out of denial. A more tenacious form of denigration combines negative stereotyping of different groups with a rationale for their inherent inferiority (Nazis, Ku Klux Klan). Movement beyond denigration can be impeded both by the institutionalisation of hatred and...
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