What is ethnocentrism?



Another word that is of great interest to me because of its propensity to overflow into racism is ethnocentrism.


While there is nothing wrong with having a strong affinity for your people who share the same culture, language, beliefs, etc., there is a cause for concern when the “ethnic pride” is turned into prejudice against other ethnicities.

Unfortunately, ethnocentrism is often turned into animosity and bad treatment of other people who do not belong to the dominant or the more affluent group.


The Cambridge English Dictionary defines ethnocentrism as a belief that a particular race or culture is better than others.[1]


According to this definition, the feelings of superiority are based on a belief which in many cases is based on nothing more than stereotypes and distorted information about other people and cultures. All cultures are not the same and should not necessarily be because they serve different purposes for those that practice them. But passing value judgment is something that humans are prone to doing, and the conclusions are usually faulty, to say the least.


Here is a more elaborate definition of ethnocentricism by Bagchi, who states that:

“Ethnocentrism is the tendency to place one's own tribe, race, or country at the center of human affairs as superior to other such peoples.[2]


According to Bagchi, “Ethnocentrism has existed in virtually all societies in human history. To feel superior to other peoples requires that one is aware of others beyond one's national or cultural boundaries. To feel superior to other peoples also requires that one knows enough about others to judge their civilization or way of life as inferior to one's own.”[3]


I have brought up the issue of ethnocentrism here because it is going to be used to bridge the gap between it and tribalism.

The concept of tribalism is the brainchild of ethnocentricism driven by western hegemony. When the Europeans came in contact with other civilizations, they decided that these civilizations were backward, primitive, and underdeveloped; therefore, these groups should be referred to as tribal. Therefore, the word tribe is loaded with racism, prejudices, and mischaracterization and should be dropped when talking about other people, cultures, and civilizations.

[1] Cambridge English Dictionary [2] Kaushik Bagchi Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History. Ed. William H. McNeill, Jerry H. Bentley, and David Christian. Vol. 2. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing, 2005. p685-688. [3] Kaushik Bagchi Berkshire Encyclopedia of World History. Ed. William H. McNeill, Jerry H. Bentley, and David Christian. Vol. 2. Great Barrington, MA: Berkshire Publishing, 2005. p685-688.

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