The origins of the word China is constructed of ideographs meaning ‘centre’ and ‘country’, and in more traditional Chinese world maps, China is placed in the centre of the map.
The world’s meridian line was centered on English soils, with the longitude measured in consideration of its distance to Greenwich, a borough of London.
Japan use the word “gaijin”, also meaning barbarian to describe foreigners, furthermore when visiting another country, rather than referring to themselves as tourists, they describe the locals to that area as “gaijin”.
Ethnocentrism is the idea that people will instinctively base their attitude towards their own cultural and ethnic patterns as more superior then towards other cultural practices.
It is the concept that brought Australia the White Australia policy, the policy that justified the ethnic cleansing of Indigenous Australians, the policy that is now seen (to the majority) as a disgrace to our nation.
The image shown above features an advertising pamphlet used for World War I, the words ‘KEEP AUSTRALIA WHITE AND FREE’ clearly highlights the ethnocentrism of Australia towards the ‘inferior’ culture of the Indigenous Australians.
A more recent example is shown in the clip below taken from the 1987 documentary ‘Cannibal Tours’. The ethnocentrism is emphasised through the commodifying of the villager’s cultures, as a Western tourist asks, “Is it alright to take pictures?”. However, “In the film the tourists see the villagers as exotic, with several talking about the supposedly ‘unspoilt’ nature of the villagers they encounter, but, as O’Rourke points out, these villagers normally wear Western clothing and only don traditional dress for the benefit of the paying tourists” (Australian Screen). Whilst the “extent to which global tourism commodifies cultures such as that of the villagers is clearly revealed” (Australian Screen), through the treatment of the villagers as “curiosities and objects to be photographed and documented” (Australian Screen), the villagers in turn are seeing the Westerners as inferior, by profiting in the tourist’s ‘naivety’.
The Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity
Doctor Milton Bennett formulated the Developmental Model of Intercultural Sensitivity to describe the attitudes towards other cultures. “The goal is to move from the ethnocentric stages of denial, defence, and minimization, to the ethnorelative stages of acceptance, adaptation and integration” (Unite for Sight 2015).
1. Denial of Difference
The failure to recognise culture or cultural differences, instead seeing one’s lifestyle as the ‘right way to live’. “In some cases, people with this orientation may dehumanize others, assuming that different behavior is a deficiency in intelligence or personality.” (Bennett 2011, pp.1-12)
2. Defence against Difference
Cultures are recognised, however “the existing cultural worldview is protected by negatively evaluating persons with different cultural behaviors or values” (Bennett 2011, pp.1-12).
3. Minimisation of Difference
Recognising cultures, but undermining them by looking at the similarities between human beings in order to decrease the level of cultural difference.
The model is limited in its broadness and is open to perception, for example, when looking at the image below, is the political cartonist Malcom Evans ‘minimising the difference’, in that the two women are similar in their viewpoint, or is the image showing the ‘defense against difference’, in that both women are critiquing the other culture according to their clohting choices?
Ethnocentrism is a broad term and can affect various people, as well as cultural groups in many ways. The image above shows how easily it to assume negative judgements towards the other ‘less superior’ cultures, rather than taking a look at the broader picture.
Bennett, J. 1993, Towards a developmental model of intercultural sensitivity In R. Michael Paige, ed. Education for the Intercultural Experience. Yarmouth, ME: Intercultural Press.
Makarevicius, A 2005, Cultural Identity, ALS Lectures, viewed August 2015, <http://alslectures.webs.com/culturalidentity.htm>
2008, Module 7: Cultural Differences and Cultural Understanding, Unite for SIght, viewed August 2015, <http://www.uniteforsight.org/cultural-competency/module7>
Varnekar, V 2014, 10 Examples of Ethnocentrism to Help You Understand it Better, Buzzle, viewed August 2015, <http://www.buzzle.com/articles/10examples-of-ethnocentrism-to-help-you-understand-it-better.html>