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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 17 2012: I work with many different cultures, and while it is evident that the people I work with always approach tasks from a familiar starting point (i.e., their own cultural perspective), what I see again and again is that we are all human first and culturally determined second. This is not to downplay the effect that cultural determination can have on our interactions with the world. It can sometimes be very significant. For example, I lived with some native Americans up near Alaska for a while and I lent one of them my jacket. He kept it! When I started to inquire about why he wasn't giving my jacket back, I discovered the idea that native ideas of private property are very different than my own. In my culture, his action might be called stealing, whereas in his culture, I was part of his community and my jacket was community property. When I discovered this, I was not angry that he kept the jacket. Rather, I was gratified that, even as an outsider, I had been included in his community. I give this example to show that cultural ideas are very powerful, yet even more powerful is our capacity for understanding each other as human beings.

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