Wednesday, February 18, 2009

Ethnocentrism Vs. Cultural Relativism

In class, we've been studying the comparison between ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. Ethnocentrism is defined as looking at someone else's culture in comparison to your own culture, and comparing it to that of your own. Cultural Relativism is defined as understanding cultures from their own perspective, not necessarily as a comparison to your own culture.
Culture is very important to everyone living in society, it more or less makes up our lives. Without culture, everyone would live and act the same way. How people look at different cultures, however, can differ between people. For example, someone in America who thinks by ethnocentrism might look at an African or Asian culture and think their culture and customs are wierd or abnormal, because they are not like the culture in America. In this way, they are looking at another culture in terms of their own, and comparing it to their own lifestyle. Someone who uses cultural relativism would look at a culture not from their own perspective, but try and look at the culture from the own people's view. For example, an American looking at Indian culture might study it and try to understand why they practice the things they do, without relating it to their own culture. The person studying it might not see it as wierd or abnormal, but something unique and its own.
When our class read the article about the Nacirema, most of the students took and ethnocentric position, comparing their culture to that of an American one. I think that most people in the world today look at different cultures and lifestyles this way, because we are so used to our own culture, that when we see different customs and lifestyles, we see it as abnormal. Sometimes this is a good thing, other times it is not. Ethnocentrism could be used in a negative way, that could cause fighting over different cultures and ways of life. I think cultural relativity is a better way to discuss culture than that of ethnocentrism, because it allows the people discussing it to be more open to the different cultures around them; not decide someone else's culture is wierd because it's not like theirs.


  1. This is a good article about ethnocentrism and cultural relativism I think.And I am a good example for that as an ex-change student.Before i came here,I hadn't got American perspective,i was looking at facts through my culture's window(ethnocentrism)and it continued for a while here,too.Because it was hard to understand the new morals,habits...On my first months, I was comparing everything here and at home without purpose but it stopped.Now,I can understand or have got the general idea the way you live.I am happy to put myself into another culture's individuals even for 11 months.(cultural relativism)On Christmas we went a tree field to cut down one with my host family.I asked why don't you buy a plastic tree and use it every Christmas.Because they are valuable in my country we donate money prevent to be a desert territory.After all it is a Christmas culture I know now.

  2. I think that every one should b looking at other culture through a cultual reletivity perspective. it is unfair to judge another cultures actions if you havent looked at it through there point of view. alot of people in other cultures look at what we do as direspectful and just not rite. like the fact that in our culture we like to see girls on tv with only a bikini on when in other culture that is seen as disrespectful and women have giot to were clothes that cover all of the skin on there bobies. also in alot of other culture food is a large part of why we judge peoeple so hard. in asia they eat dog and ducks as to americans who eat chicken and cows. to us eating a dog is gross but to them eating a cow is the same as them eating a dog.
    in class we did read a artical called nacirema which is american spelled back wards and what it was ment to do was put our culture in the view of someone eleses eyes and it was worded the way that person would have decribed what they saw. when we were reading this artical we thought that these people were barbarians and were crazy but really it was just describing what we do every day. we need to look at other cultures through there eyes and that way we will have a much better understanding and we wont be so inclined to jump at our judgments.

  3. that last comment was by tom

  4. Tom,
    I like what you have to say, but your spelling... yikes!