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Polish sociologist Ludwig Gumplowicz is believed to have coined the term "ethnocentrism" in the 19th century, although he may have merely popularized it.

Ethnocentrism in social science and anthropology—as well as in colloquial English discourse—means to apply one's own culture or ethnicity as a frame of reference in order to judge other cultures, practices, behaviors, beliefs, and people, instead of using the standards of the particular culture involved. Since this judgement is often negative, some people also use the term to refer to the belief that one's culture is superior to, or more correct or normal than, all others—especially regarding the distinctions that define each ethnicity's cultural identity, such as language, behavior, customs, and religion.[1] In common usage, it can also simply mean any culturally biased judgment.[2] For example, ethnocentrism can be seen in the common portrayals of the Global South and the Global North.

Ethnocentrism is sometimes related to racism, stereotyping, discrimination, or xenophobia. However, the term "ethnocentrism" does not necessarily involve a negative view of the others' race or indicate a negative connotation.[3] The opposite of ethnocentrism is cultural relativism, which means to understand a different culture in its own terms without subjective judgments.

The term "ethnocentrism" was first applied in the social sciences by American sociologist William G. Sumner.[4] In his 1906 book, Folkways, Sumner describes ethnocentrism as "the technical name for the view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it." He further characterized ethnocentrism as often leading to pride, vanity, the belief in one's own group's superiority, and contempt for outsiders.[5]

Over time, ethnocentrism developed alongside the progression of social understandings by people such as social theorist, Theodore W. Adorno. In Adorno's The Authoritarian Personality, he and his colleagues of the Frankfurt School established a broader definition of the term as a result of "in group-out group differentiation," stating that ethnocentrism "combines a positive attitude toward one's own ethnic/cultural group (the in-group) with a negative attitude toward the other ethnic/cultural group (the out-group)." Both of these juxtaposing attitudes are also a result of a process known as social identification and social counter-identification.[6]

Together, Boas and

Together, Boas and his colleagues propagated the certainty that there are no inferior races or cultures. This egalitarian approach introduced the concept of cultural relativism to anthropology, a methodological principle for investigating and comparing societies in as unprejudiced as possible and without using a developmental scale as anthropologists at the time were implementing.[19] Boas and anthropologist Bronisław Malinowski argued that any human science had to transcend the ethnocentric views that could blind any scientist's ultimate conclusions.[citation needed]

Both had a

Both had also urged anthropologists to conduct ethnographic fieldwork in order to overcome their ethnocentrism. To help, Malinowski would develop the theory of functionalism as guides for producing non-ethnocentric studies of different cultures. Classic examples of anti-ethnocentric anthropology include Margaret Mead's Coming of Age in Samoa (1928), which in time has met with severe criticism for its incorrect data and generalisations, Malinowski's The Sexual Life of Savages in North-Western Melanesia (1929), and Ruth Benedict's Patterns of Culture (1934). Mead and Benedict were two of Boas's students.[19]

Scholars generally agree that Boas developed his ideas under the influence of the German philosopher Immanuel Kant. Legend has it that, on a field trip to the Baffin Islands in 1883, Boas would pass the frigid nights reading Kant's Critique of Pure Reason. In that work, Kant argued that human understanding could not be described according to the laws that applied to the operations of nature, and that its operations were therefore free, not determined, and that ideas regulated human action, sometimes independent of material interests. Following Kant, Boas pointed out the starving Eskimos who, because of their religious beliefs, would not hunt seals to feed themselves, thus showing that no pragmatic or material calculus determined their values.[21][22]

Ethnocentrism is believed to be a learned behavior embedded into a variety of beliefs and values of an individual or group.[14]

Due to enculturation, individuals in in-groups have a deeper sense of loyalty and are more likely to following the norms and develop relationships with associated members.enculturation, individuals in in-groups have a deeper sense of loyalty and are more likely to following the norms and develop relationships with associated members.[4] Within relation to enculturation, ethnocentrism is said to be a transgenerational problem since stereotypes and similar perspectives can be enforced and encouraged as time progresses.[4] Although loyalty can increase better in-grouper approval, limited interactions with other cultures can prevent individuals to have an understanding and appreciation towards cultural differences resulting in greater ethnocentrism.[4]

The social identity approach suggests that ethnocentric beliefs are caused by a strong identification with one's own culture that directly creates a positive view of that culture. It is theorized by Henri Tajfel and John C. Turner that in order to maintain that positive view, people make social comparisons that cast competing cultural groups in an unfavorable light.[23]

Alternative or opposite perspectives could cause individuals to develop naïve realism and be subject to limitations in understandings.[24] These characteristics can also lead to individuals to become subject to ethnocentrism, when referencing out-groups, and black sheep effect, where personal perspectives contradict those from fellow in-groupers.[24]

Realistic conflict theory assumes that ethnocentrism happens due to "real or perceived conflict" between groups. This also happens when a dominant group may perceive the new members as a threat.[25] Scholars have recently demonstrated that individuals are more likely to develop in-group identification and out-group negatively in response to intergroup competition, conflict, or threat.[4]

Although the causes of ethnocentric beliefs and actions can have varying roots of context and reason, the effects of ethnocentrism has had both negative and positive effects throughout history. The most detrimental effects of ethnocentrism resulting into genocide, apartheid, slavery, and many violent conflicts. Historical examples of these negative effects of ethnocentrism are The Holocaust, the Crusades, the Trail of Tears, and the internment of Japanese Americans. These events were a result of cultural differences reinforced inhumanely by a superior, majority group. In his 1976 book on evolution, The Selfish Gene, evolutionary biologist Richard Dawkins writes that "blood-feuds and inter-clan warfare are easily interpretative in terms of Hamilton's genetic theory."[26] Simulation-based experiments in evolutionary game theory have attempted to provide an explanation for the selection of ethnocentric-strategy phenotypes.[27][28]

The positive examples of ethnocentrism throughout history have aimed to prohibit the callousness of ethnocentrism and reverse the perspectives of living in a single culture. These organizations can include the formation of the United Nations; aimed to maintain international relations, and the Olympic Games; a celebration of sports and friendly competition between cultures.[14]

A study in New Zealand was used to compare how individuals associate with in-groups and out-groupers and has a connotation to discrimination.[29] Strong in-group favoritism benefits the dominant groups and is different from out-group hostility and/or punishment.[29] A suggested solution is to limit the perceived threat from the out-group that also decreases the likeliness for those supporting the in-groups to negatively react.[29]

Ethnocentrism also influences consumer preference over which goods they purchase. A study that used several in-group and out-group orientations have shown a correlation between national identity, consumer cosmopolitanism, national identity, consumer cosmopolitanism, consumer ethnocentrism, and the methods consumer choose their products, whether imported or domestic.[30]

Ethnocentrism is usually associated with racism. However, as mentioned before, ethnocentrism does not necessarily implicate a negative connotation. In European research the term racism is not linked to ethnocentrism because Europeans avoid applying the concept of race to humans; meanwhile, using this term is not a problem for American researchers.[31] Since ethnocentrism implicated a strong identification with one's in-group, it mostly automatically leads to negative feelings and stereotyping to the members of the outgroup, which can be confused with racism.[31] Finally, scholars agree that avoiding stereotypes is an indispensable prerequisite to overcome ethnocentrism; and mass media play a key role regarding this issue.

Effects of ethnocentrism in the media

Aladdin from Disney as an example of ethnocentrism

Cinema has been around our society since the beginning of the 20th centur

Cinema has been around our society since the beginning of the 20th century, and it is an important tool that allow to entertain and/or educate the viewer. Western companies are usually the leaders of the film industry. Thus, it is common to be exposed to content based on Westerners' point of view. Examples of ethnocentrism are constantly seen in films whether intentionally or unintentionally. A clear example of this can be seen on the American animated film Aladdin by Disney in 1992; the opening song of the movie is "Arabian Nights," it is mentioned on the lyrics that that land "it's barbaric, hey, but it's home," which had caused debates among the audience because it could lead to thinking that the Arabic culture is barbaric. Examples like this abound on many Hollywood films. Experts on the field propose that a way of overcoming ethnocentrism is to avoid the use of stereotypes in films.[31] Therefore, the presence of ethnocentrism in cinema leads to stereotypical images of cultures that are different to ours.

Social media

A considerable number of people are exposed to social media, whose purpose is to encourage interaction among users.[33] However, that exchange of information can be hindered by ethnocentrism because it can diminish the interest of interacting with people from other cultures.[33]

See also