Differences Between Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

Topics: Culture, Cultural relativism, Anthropology Pages: 2 (413 words) Published: March 11, 2007
Differences between Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

The world today consists of an incalculable number of societies. Each society varies significantly in the different elements of culture. Culture is one's designed way of living based on erudite customs, knowledge, material items, and behavior. Within every society today lives an ethnocentric attitude. The belief that ones own culture is superior to that of another's. However, it is important to develop a sense of cultural relativism in today's society, considering that there are so many benefits to understanding different cultures. Ethnocentrism is quite different than that of cultural relativism.

Terms such as underdeveloped and primitive are prime examples of the ignorance societies use to describe another. A person with an ethnocentric perspective may view other cultures as deviations from what is "normal". On the other hand, who developed normality?

The history of the English serves as a prime example of ethnocentric beliefs. Discrimination plays a direct role in the ethnocentric belief. During the exploration period the discrimination against blacks by whites was a major controversial issue. In England many believed that the darker a person is the "dirtier and impure" they are. Some people believed that some races were not even races. Instead they were considered animals and not humans. One would expect that with so much diversity adaptations would develop, however, racial intensity rose to new heights.

Another example of ethnocentrism is illustrated in the history of the Holocaust. Not only were Jews targeted, Nazis also targeted Roma (gypsies), Polish, and Yugoslavians. The massive killings were the Nazi's attempts at making the perfect Arian race. They felt as though any other race was impure.

Contrary to ethnocentrism, cultural relativity allows for the understanding of differences among cultures. It does not cause for agreement or disagreement but mere comprehension of different...
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