University of California
Type of paper: Thesis/Dissertation Chapter
Ethnocentrism is the tendency to believe that one’s ethnic or cultural group is centrally important, and that all other groups are measured on one’s own cultural value. Ethnocentrism happens when one culture or nation places itself at the top of a self proclaimed hierarchy of cultures and nations and subsequently assigns other cultures and nations equivalent or lower value based on that scale. In other words, it is the proneness to think other cultures are of lesser worth because it is different from one’s own culture.
Ethnocentrism helps to keep a culture from changing because it forces a culture to keep the same values and to be stubborn. If one culture bases other cultures off of their own hierarchy scale, then they are less likely to be open to accept changes that other cultures may have or want to bring to them because of the importance their own values and traditions. Cultural or ethnic groups develop traditions as a way to guide their population and to give guidelines in life. If one’s culture changes, then it may dismantle the entire society, causing confusion and chaos. For example, in the film, Dishonorable Killings: Punishing the Innocent, a man, who killed his own sister, explained that in his culture, family honor is extremely important because it represents the family as a whole in the community; it is more important than life. When a member, particularly a woman, dishonors the family, it shames the family and forces them to get rid the disgrace by killing her.
Ethnocentrism can be both positive and negative for a cultural or ethnic group. It can be in a positive light because taking pride in beliefs and traditions elevates unity and solidarity among groups’ members, and it also strengthens the self-identity and self-esteem for individuals within those groups. It can also help societies establish and reinforce guidelines and expectations among coexisting people in all areas of the community. These expectations give societies the order and structure to hold them together, helping them run smoothly and allowing them to thrive.
A negative view of ethnocentrism are the assumptions based on individuals’ own perception, that what works for them must work for others and that if it doesn’t, something is necessarily wrong, can cause harm, offense, ill-feelings or otherwise put a damper on further relations between different societies. It could also cause oppression, prejudice, and cultural degradation, which can lead to actions ranging from conformity to violent protest.