Culture and Ethnocentrism

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Are we limited in knowledge, in imagination, and in understanding by the culture we grow up in? In other words, are we ethnocentric, and if so is it a bad thing? To answer that, one must understand what ethnocentrism is. According to Macionis (2004), ethnocentrism is "the practice of judging another culture by the standards of one's own culture". We are not born with culture; culture is a socially learned behavior, or set of values that a given groups holds as a norm and are considered to be true and right. It is these cultural norms that connect the individuals of the group, which make up a society. No society can exist without culture and no culture can exist without a society (Giddens, Duneier, & Applebaum, 2002). The two are intrinsically intertwined. It is hard to see past one's own culture and reach into another for understanding; we find it hard to comprehend the fact that our truths and values, that are so innate to us, do not represent universal truth. So what is universal truth; who is right and who is wrong culturally? Here in lays the importance of understanding ‘cultural relativism', or "the practice of evaluating a culture by its own standards" (Macionis, 2004), making the previous question irrelevant since culture itself is present in every society, it is therefore, universal; having no right or wrong. Like culture, ethnocentrism is unavoidable and like culture, ethnocentrism is universal to all cultures to some degree. To claim no ethnocentricity would be to separate oneself from one's own culture. It is only human nature to be grounded in and reflective of the culture that you have been immersed in since birth, as it is your connection to your heritage. In this sense, ethnocentrism is not all bad, and can be beneficial in promoting cultural diversity (Rosaldo, 2000). It becomes bad when we do not acknowledge other cultures or we expect others to adopt our cultural norms because we believe their cultural norms are wrong. This...
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