Ethnocentrism is the practice where we tend to believe that our own culture, ethnic group, race, etc. are superior to others. Such a belief develops out of socialization, which provides us the knowledge of the existence of different cultures, and that of our own, what these cultures entail, what is normal, what is different, what is right or what is wrong. Ethnocentrism is often a judgment that we make based on our own culture, we tend to believe that what we practice in our own culture is right, as opposed to the practices of the other cultures, it is a kind of cultural relativism where we are comparing our own culture to the other while at the same time keeping the focus on our own culture. We all learn ethnocentrism while growing up, as the practices of our own culture are normalized to us, we automatically tend to start assuming any practice that is not a part of our culture is not normal.
E.g. In the Western countries, it is normal for girls to wear dresses that are short, skirts, cut sleeve clothes whereas in India, even though now it is coming to be accepted, those wearing such clothes are often judged to have a loose character it is said that girls should always be dressed in clothes covering their body, as this is ideal and thus they must not attempt to copy the west. When we talk about Western values, we find that the culture of eating with knives, forks, and spoons seem to have come from the West. Habits such as using the spoon even while eating rice are a western influence, in India rice is eaten with hands, thus anyone belonging to India would consider this the way to eat rice.
Ethnocentrism leads to the formation of feelings of ‘us’ and ‘them’ creating and enforcing the ideas of an in-group and an out-group, where the former will refer to the people of one’s own culture, and the latter to the people of another culture. This process will create the tendency of in-group favoritism or bias, as we are likely to favor our own culture and thus accept the cultural practices of our own culture as opposed to that of the other. E.g. when we judge the taste of the Chinese in eating insects, as ‘gross’ or ‘disgusting’ simply because we are not used to eating such food we are automatically implying that, the food choices or practice of our own culture is more normal than theirs and thus it is better and not ‘disgusting’.
While ethnocentrism is a good promoter of a group solidarity or we feeling, on of the major drawbacks for it is the fact that, when we label another group as them and their practices as not normal, we tend to not cooperate with these groups as doing so would require us to compromise on our own culture. Ethnocentrism lies in contrast to the practice of xenocentrism, where we tend to judge the other culture as superior to our own. Both are an extreme end to a spectrum and thus there is a need to look for ways to allow change to come about by taking practices of other cultures missing in our own and at the same time maintaining our own culture.
Difference between Ethnocentrism and Xenocentrism
Ethnocentrism means The tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own traditional, deferred, or adoptive ethnic culture, while Xenocentrism means a preference for the products, styles, or ideas of a different culture.