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.