TED Conversations

Feyisayo Anjorin

Freelance Director, Afro-Carribean Media Group


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Is it possible for an individual to be without ethnocentrism?

Ethnocentrism involves using the ideas and beliefs of one particular culture to judge other cultures.
It is so similar to pride in the sense that we loath it in other people/cultures; but we are hardly conscious of it in our own culture.
Our beliefs and worldview is as a result of years of living in our community and seeing things done in a particular way; years of familiarity with the material culture, social structure, religion, history, philosophy and ideals.
We usually percieve our culture as the logical, reasonable and normal way to live; and we often wonder "How anyone could ever live like THAT?!"
It is usually the chief enemy of marriages. The husband has grown up in a different home environment, under different circumstances, and with a different experience. He would wonder why the wife is behaving in a certain manner that is contrary to his ways; and so does the wife.

Is ethnocentrism inevitable?


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  • Sep 3 2012: No, not completely. "Possible", yes, but rarely.

    I could imagine a child growing up while traveling around the world with his/her parents, picking up culture from many different peoples. Especially, If the parents intentionally wanted to avoid ethnocentrism, then yes, it could be avoided to a great extent. Obviously, this would be a rare person. You might be able to simulate this experience today, somewhat, by using the internet to expose a child to different cultures. Still, much of the child's basic values and ways of doing things would still come from the parents. So if it could be accomplished, would this be good? It certainly is not natural. Perhaps the child would grow into adolescence and find that it is much more difficult to establish her/his own values and sense of identity.

    IMO, ethnocentrism is not bad. It is just an ordinary part of being human. Most cultures consider it important to learn about other cultures.

    It is important to be aware of ethnocentrism and to value it; to consider the differences as opportunities rather than cause for fear.
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      Sep 3 2012: You are right. There are dimensions of ethnocentrism that are not bad. One would definately have a worldview, which would have a basis in one's culture.
      But how would you avoid extreme and negative expressions of ethnocentrism?
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        Sep 4 2012: Extreme ethnocentrism could be avoided through proper education among students. Nobody can be truly indifferent to their ethnic origins.However, extreme prejudice over other cultures and the assumption that one's own culture is dominant can be redirected into a positive output through education and compassion.
        The internet can only provide so much information, but if you actually visit different countries and experience the culture and its shocks, then you will truly understand the differences. The education about being respectable about other cultures will assist on your journeys.

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