Ethnocentrism: Culture and Adequate Explanation

Topics: Culture, Cultural relativism, Anthropology Pages: 2 (508 words) Published: April 12, 2005
Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativism

Ethnocentrism and cultural relativism are two contrasting terms that are displayed by different people all over the world. Simply put, ethnocentrism is defined as "judging other groups from the perspective of one's own cultural point of view." Cultural relativism, on the other hand, is defined as "the view that all beliefs are equally valid and that truth itself is relative, depending on the situation, environment, and individual." Each of these ideas has found its way into the minds of people worldwide. The difficult part is attempting to understand why an individual portrays one or the other. It is a question that anthropologists have been asking themselves for years.

Ethnocentrism, as stated above, means the belief that one's own culture is above and beyond all other cultures. Although this is somewhat of a shallow definition, it still provides an adequate explanation of a very complex issue. We see ethnocentrism every single day, in all aspects of life. The United States of America is a prime example of ethnocentrism is action. The people of this country have a tendency to disregard other cultures, instead believing that American culture is the only way to go. This is not to say that this is how everyone thinks, although most people, at one time or another, have had thoughts along these lines.

After the terrorist attack of 9/11, there was an immediate shift into almost hatred of any person of Arabic descent. Americans began to blame the entire Arabic population for these horrific acts, when in reality it was a select few who were to blame. From then on, however, anything involving Arabic culture was deemed that of "terrorists."

This process does work both ways, however. Citizens of other nations have long made it clear that they believe Americans are nothing but greedy, power-hungry people. I have known several people that visited France, for example, and were treated as though they did not belong because they...
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