Culture and Ethnocentrism
American Intercontinental University
Professor Kenya Lawton
August 24, 2013
The research contained within this paper will give a logical definition to the meaning of culture. Also discussed are the factors that impact a person??™s culture; examples of these factors are values, societal norms, symbols and most importantly language. Also described in this research is cultural relativism and ethnocentrism. An evaluation of my own thoughts regarding ethnocentrism toward a foreign film and a conclusion as to why cultural relativism must be utilized more will also be discussed.
Culture and Ethnocentrism
According to the Editorial Board (2012), culture can be defined as a shared idea of life amid an assembly of individuals which impacts thoughts, opinions, behaviors, and beliefs. Again, according to the Editorial Board (2012), even though cultures tend to vary widely, most have common components; for instance, values, norms, symbols and even language. Many may not identify their techniques when utilizing ethnocentrism, but maybe in perusing this research papers explanation and explaining my personal ethnocentrism will assist the reader in fully gaining and understanding for the fact that we all unconsciously utilize ethnocentrism in our day to day lives. There is the hope that this research will guide all readers to work toward utilizing the practices of cultural relativism. It is important to respect the differences in another culture, only then will you be closer to understanding them.
There are several universal elements that make up different cultures. An example of this is the creation and use of symbols that reflect shared meanings across cultural lines. An example of a universal symbol is a nation??™s flag. Each country on this earth has a flag that represents them. However, each country??™s flag has a different meaning. For the United States, the flag stands for liberty and freedom. In India, the bovine is a sacred symbol as it represents the earth as they give to us without wanting or asking for something in return.
Language is probably the most important universal symbol, as it allows communication between members of a culture and is taught through generations. According to Dictionary (2013), the Sapir-Whorf hypothesis states that the languages that humans use determine the structure of the real world as it is perceived by them. Every culture has principles and values in which they believe and pursue as a standard for the way of life in decision making and what individuals may desire. A great example of this is the society of the United States; and the view of the ???American Dream.??? The ???American Dream??? is the societal belief that anyone can achieve their goals and dream; they just have to work for it. Inside a culture, there are social controls in place to guide persons with expectations and rules of everyday life, these are norms.
Individuals tend to judge other cultures by comparing and contrasting it with their own. According to Negy, Shreve, Jensen and Uddin (2003), ethnocentrism has been utilized since its introduction, and refers to viewing one??™s own culture with more positivity than another??™s based on the standards set by one??™s own group. This is quite common and occurs because the standards of one culture may not be appealing to another. A great example of ethnocentrism is how ???Western culture,??? judges and views Muslim women when they are seen wearing a Niqab, or basic headscarf. A real life instance of this example is when Zaiba Malik wore a Niqab for the purposes of documenting her experiences while wearing it. According to Zaiba Malik (2006), after the passing of only a few hours she had gotten used to the leering looks and snickering, and was unsurprised that fellow passengers on a bus would not sit next to her but rather stand. This is an instance where cultural relativism should be utilized. If ???Western societies??? claim multicultural acceptance, people should accept a Muslim woman??™s right to wear a Niqab and accept it is an expression of their religion.
Foreign documentary with Indian culture
???Marathon Boy??? directed by Gemma Atwal, is the foreign documentary film chosen to be viewed for this assignment. This particular documentary follows Budhia, a boy from an impoverished area of India. Apparently when he was four years old his mother sold him for 800 rupees to Biranchi, a renowned Judo coach that trained him to run marathons. Budhia was surrounded by controversy as his notoriety soared for being young and running marathons, especially after he collapsed after running a long distance; which caused Indian officials and the trainer to fight over the boys??™ welfare. Regardless, of the cast society in this country, and the fact he was born in the slums; Budhia had a chance at social mobility class because the family he was given to was in a higher class. When watching this film I was definitely conflicted because even though the boy seemed to like running, it seemed his trainer enjoyed the limelight more, and pushed him too hard. To add to my conflicting emotions was the fact that the life of running was obviously better than the life he would have had with his mother.
Biranchi, the trainer, was eventually killed, and was honored in the traditional Hindu funeral Pyre after a procession in which he was honored by mourners throwing flowers while being paraded down the street. According to kermeliotis (2011), Pyre is a thousand of years old process of disrobing the dead, putting them on piles of wood, and setting fire to the body and wood. The entire documentary was slightly strange to me, especially the funeral practices, but in my own culture I am accustomed to burying our loved ones in a cemetery after a service in a funeral home, church or even a home.
In conclusion, all cultures believe that their belief structure is superior to others. However, to make this world a better place for all humans, we need to learn that one culture is not better than another even though they may be widely different; acceptance and respect is important. A very important question to ask oneself is would you want to be judged solely on ones values or beliefs For me, the answer is no, and what I have learned from this assignment is to not judge others based on their culture but rather learn about them so I can gain understanding and respect for them.
Editorial Board. (2012). Introduction to sociology. Schaumburg, IL Words of Wisdom.
Retrieved August 18, 2013 from http://wow.coursesmart.com
Kermeliotis, T. (2011). India??™s burning issue with emissions form Hindu funeral pyres. Road to Durban. Retrieved August 23, 2013 from http://www.cnn.com/2011/09/12/world/asia/india-funeral-pyres-emissions/index.html
Malik, Z. (2006). ???Even other Muslims turn and look at me. Retrieved August 22, 2013 from http://www.guardian.co.uk/world/2006/oct/17/gender.religion
Negy, C, Shreve, T, Jensen, & Uddin, N. (2003). Ethnic identity, self-esteem, and ethnocentrism: a study of social identity versus multicultural theory of development. Cultural Diversity and Ethnic Minority Psychology. Retrieved August 19, 2013 from PsycARTICLES, EBSCOhost
Sapir-Whorf Hypothesis. (2013). In Dictionary. Retrieved August 24, 2013 from http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/sapir-whorf+hypo+thesis