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 11 2012: I think Humans by necessity must judge other phenomena, whether it be culture, a person or an experience, by what we already know. To not do so would make it very hard to function in everyday life. It's a cognitive bias known as the anchoring effect. For those of you who haven't heard of it, it effectively just means our perception of the present is partial to what we have already experienced. Although it is of course possible to compensate for this, I think the challenge lies in understanding how immensely subject you are to all these faults in human reasoning. And from there being able to isolate, and analyse each fault one by one. A very tedious task I think, and as such not one undertaken by an abundance of people.
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      Sep 12 2012: The obvious response to this would be to educate our children from 5 year olds up outside of the home culture?
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        Sep 12 2012: I don't think there are an awful lot of five year old children who would be able to grasp the concept of ethnocentrism. And even then do you mean that we should educate them in every culture? I suspect that being raised while being consistently told a vast amount of contradicting opinions and beliefs would not be good for a child. Also given the sheer number of different cultures out there, the parent would have a nigh impossible task set for them. Besides which, most ethnocentrism is harmless. Sure you get the extremists, but I think most people are happy to let everyone be who they want to be. For example you can disagree with religion but as long as those who are religious don't come knocking on your door to tell you about the coming apocalypse you're generally happy to let them get on with it. I'm agnostic but I have friends who are religious as well as friends from a broad range of different cultures and backgrounds. Sure I have my opinions but I also respect them as individuals, so I don't argue with them about something that doesn't effect me or our relationship. And if it ever does then we negotiate and we compromise. So while I do think ethnocentrism is inevitable, that doesn't mean you can't be civil about it. :)
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          Sep 12 2012: I was thinking for our young to grow up with a total global view,we educate them outside of nz while we do the same for another group,when they return they might not want to stay,we're very lucky in a way,we're not totally ethnocentric but a mixture of a few,kiwi/maori/islander/indian/asian, just to name the main groups,diverse and being still geographically isolated it would be great to see how it is in a hundred years or so,if we survive getting quaked and sunburnt.

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