Essay about Culture and Ethnocentrism

1450 Words Jun 22nd, 2005 6 Pages
Are we limited in knowledge, in imagination, and in understanding by the culture we grow up in? In other words, are we ethnocentric, and if so is it a bad thing? To answer that, one must understand what ethnocentrism is. According to Macionis (2004), ethnocentrism is "the practice of judging another culture by the standards of one's own culture".
We are not born with culture; culture is a socially learned behavior, or set of values that a given groups holds as a norm and are considered to be true and right. It is these cultural norms that connect the individuals of the group, which make up a society. No society can exist without culture and no culture can exist without a society (Giddens, Duneier, & Applebaum, 2002). The two are
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Crossing the lines between cultures has become more common with technological advances. What was once a world where cultures rarely crossed due to geographic locations has turned into a global meshing of cultures where an increased awareness of ethnocentrism is paramount. What is important to know and remember about ethnocentrism is through understanding and coming to terms with another's culture does not mean you have to agree with it, act upon it, or embrace it. One must only respect the differing value and acknowledge its existence. This includes all values, ethical and unethical. For example, understanding some cultures embrace bull fighting which your culture may find as a cruel way to end the bull's life. Accepting this value as a valid part of their culture does not preclude or dismiss your belief that it is unethical (Rosaldo, 2000). Allowing and understanding that these two values can and in fact do exist side-by-side in both cultural norms is the ability to get past ethnocentrism through cultural relativism.
There are three levels of ethnocentrism: a positive perspective, a negative perspective, and an extremely negative perspective. This is important to note in terms of the degree that ethnocentrism can be tolerable. The positive perspective views one culture as being

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