Article

Ethnocentrism

Elizabeth Elliott Cooper

in Anthropology

ISBN: 9780199766567
Published online January 2012 | | DOI: http://dx.doi.org/10.1093/obo/9780199766567-0045
Ethnocentrism

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Ethnocentrism is a term applied to the cultural or ethnic bias—whether conscious or unconscious—in which an individual views the world from the perspective of his or her own group, establishing the in-group as archetypal and rating all other groups with reference to this ideal. This form of tunnel vision often results in: (1) an inability to adequately understand cultures that are different from one’s own and (2) value judgments that preference the in-group and assert its inherent superiority, thus linking the concept of ethnocentrism to multiple forms of chauvinism and prejudice, including nationalism, tribalism, racism, and even sexism and disability discrimination. Ethnocentrism is a concept that was coined within anthropology and formed the cornerstone of its early evolutionary theory before becoming one of the discipline’s primary social critiques. It continues to both challenge and inspire anthropologists, shifting in meaning and application with theoretical trends and across the subdisciplines. For many anthropologists in the Boasian tradition, ethnocentrism is the antithesis of anthropology, a mind-set that it actively counters through cultural relativism, education, and applied activities such as cultural brokering. Physical anthropologists have tended to define the concept more generally as preferential cooperation with a defined in-group and to interrogate its potential evolutionary origins, while the postmodern trend has been a growing suspicion of the anthropologist’s own ability to transcend cultural bias in his or her analysis and presentation of the “other,” leading to an emphasis on reflexivity and subjective diversity. Outside of the discipline, ethnocentrism is a topic of study for biologists, political scientists, communication experts, psychologists, and sociologists, particularly in the areas of politics, identity, and conflict. Marketing has seized on the term to describe consumers who prefer domestically produced goods, and the derivative ethnocentric has become a common criticism in the era of globalization for those assuming their own cultural superiority.

Article.  14048 words. 

Subjects: Anthropology ; Human Evolution ; Medical Anthropology ; Physical Anthropology ; Social and Cultural Anthropology

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