Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism
This paper will address several components of culture,
ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism. The first section will define the terms
of culture, ethnocentrism, and cultural relativism. The second section will
address personal cultural group that I belong to. The third section will
address my perspectives with ethnocentrism and cultural relativism. The final
section will conclude in how all three terms are combined into my personal
To fully understand the concepts of culture, ethnocentrism,
and cultural relativism, one must look at the definitions of these terms. The
definition of culture has been widely debated throughout the years. The best
definition that I found, that shows how the brain my code and categorize
information for humans, was written in the Penguin Dictionary of Psychology
The system of
information that codes the manner in which the people in an organized group,
society, nation interact with their social and physical environment. In this
sense the term is really used so that the frame of reference is the sets of
rules, regulations, mores and methods of interaction within the group.
(Culture, 2001, p. 170)
term ethnocentrism is defined by judging another culture by the standard and
believes of one’s own culture (Kahn, 2015). Neuliep, Hintz, & McCroskey (2005)
go further to define ethnocentrism to in stating that “the attitudes and
behaviors of ethnocentric persons are biased in favor of the ingroup, often at
the expense of the outgroup” and “see the ingroup as superior to outgroups” (p.
definition of the term cultural relativism is one great debate in many
professions around the world, currently and historically. The best definition
is examining different cultures through their eyes and not looking at another
culture through the lens of our own culture with any biases (Kahn, 2015 &
Ulin, 2007). Ulin (2007) expands the term a little more on stating that “most
American cultural anthropologists have utilized cultural relativism as a
pedagogical and sometimes political medium to challenge ethnocentric western
views and cultural practices and to promote an appreciation of cultural
diversity” (p. 803).
Personal Cultural Groups
There are two main cultural groups that I belong to and two
cultural sub-groups that I belong to. I, genetically, am from the Scottish and
Native-American cultures. I am Caucasian but find that probably will fall under
the umbrella main group of Scottish. I am Scottish from my father’s side of
genetics and Native-American from my mother’s side of genetics.
The cultural norms of the Scottish culture vary. Some of the
cultural norms include love hearing and playing bagpipes; wearing the clan’s
tartan that you belong to made into a kilt; eating haggis (a sheep’s heart,
liver, and lungs encased by the stomach); and participating in traditional
dancing (Scotland Channel, 2018). I do love hearing the playing of bagpipes,
although I cannot play them. I own a kilt made from the Campbell clan’s tartan
that the Darling last name is traced back to. I have watched many traditional
dancing shows at arenas of groups doing the traditional sword dances but have
never participated in them. I have never eaten, nor am I interested in eating,
haggis. I have never been to Scotland but would love to visit there someday to
investigate and learn more about the culture.
The Native American culture that I am part of is considered
the Mohawk Tribe. According to Alchin (n.d.), the Mohawk tribe is derived from
the Iroquois tribe. She states:
The Mohawk tribe
were fierce, warlike easternmost members of the powerful Iroquois Confederacy.
They lived along the Mohawk River of the Mohawk Valley in upstate New York to
Southern Quebec and Eastern Ontario and were and considered by the Iroquois
confederacy as the “keepers of the eastern door”. The Mohawk were one
of the most feared of all the Native Indian tribes and terrified their enemies
due to the violent and brutal way in which they waged war. (Alchin, n.d.)
Native American tribe lived off the land eating what could be caught and/or
hunted. No part of an animal was wasted. The skin of a bear was made into
blankets or clothing to keep warm in the winter months for an example. The
tribe lived in “longhouses” during the winter months, with each longhouse
having several generations living the same home. The men would live in more
temporary structures called “wigwams” during the summer months while away
hunting. Food that was eaten that was specifically eaten by the Mohawk tribe
known as the “three sisters” that consisted mainly of corn, beans and squash.
“Elm bark” was widely used for the making of canoes and, even, some clothing. Dances
were mostly ritually performed to help with certain issues that were happening.
One ritual that included dancing was the “rain dance” in which would be
performed when there was a drought or lack of water and the ritual would be
performed to the “Rain God” so that rain would be produced. (Alchin, n.d.)
did try to learn more about this part of my personal culture. I tried to become
part of the local tribe that has a nearby settlement but was instructed that I
did not belong because I was considered too much not of the Native American
culture but more of the Caucasian culture. I did get to watch some of the
traditional rituals and how moccasins were made at shows that this local tribe
puts on for the public. Although, I did not seem to fit into this culture
according to the Chief, I do seem to be gravitated to understanding and wanting
more to live in this culture. I do not believe their religious beliefs but do
consider myself a non-denominational Christian. I would not be allowed to be a
member of the tribe with those beliefs due to that the tribe is expected to
live in tradition that has been generationally lived by.
had to think long and hard about whether I could identify any perspectives that
I had that were rooted in ethnocentric beliefs. I, at first, was going to state
that I did not believe that I had any perspectives rooted in ethnocentric
beliefs that the American culture was better than another culture. I found that
there are ethnocentric beliefs that I have when watching the news and seeing
the fighting and war going on in Libya and other Eastern nations. One
perspective that I have that can be considered ethnocentric is the belief that
there is not one gender that should be considered higher than the other like in
Islamic beliefs that the community helps raise a child to fit into society
(PBS, 2003). I found that even the American cultural norm of being free to
practice any religion is not true in many of these countries and that was is traditional
Christianity widely differs from the beliefs of Muslims and the Islamic.
perspective that I found to ethnocentric is the belief that American cultural
norm of focusing on the individual is better that way to live than community-based
cultures. We, in the United States, believe that our openness to freedoms is a
better way to live that includes the individual rights that have been awarded
to us stated in our Constitution of the United States (National Constitution
Center, 2018). I, after, many years of formal education and learning about
psychology and how being worried about society and our communities needs to be
included in our social norms more often.
perspective on cultural relativism is that everyone should investigate more
into different cultures, without any biases that our own cultures may present,
to include some social norms of different cultures into our own lives. I do not
think that one culture is superior than another in all aspects. I think that we
can take some portion of every culture to combine a culture that works for all
individuals and societies. I do not know if that idea is possible but believe
that one culture does not provide enough answers to how humans can interact and
live without tension over a topic.
“Cultural diversity refers to the aspect of our individualism that is influenced by social interactions and culture,”
according to Kahn (2015, Section 1:3). I think the best way to observe,
communicate and live in any culture is to know what culture, ethnocentrism, and
cultural relativism are defined as and how can we accept cultural diversity at
its’ fullest extent in our lives and in our own cultural beliefs. We can learn
from the world around us that every individual is different but, perhaps, different
does not mean wrong but focuses on generational living. We can learn from our cultural
ancestors and we can learn from the ancestors of other cultures.
Alchin, L. (n.d.). Mohawk
tribe: facts, clothes, food and history. Retrieved from
Culture. (2001). In A. S.
Reber & E. S. Reber (Eds.), The Penguin dictionary of
psychology (3rd ed., p. 170). London, Eng.: Penguin Books.
Kahn, A. (2015). The
ecology of diversity. San Diego, CA: Bridgepoint Education.
National Constitute Center.
(2018). Constitute application. Retrieved from
Neuliep, J. W.,
Hintz, S. M., & McCroskey, J. C. (2005). The influence
of ethnocentrism in organizational contexts: perceptions of interviewee and
managerial attractiveness, credibility, and effectiveness. Communication
Quarterly, 53(1), 41-56. doi:10.1080/01463370500055954
PBS. (2003). Basic facts about
Islam. Retrieved from
Scotland Channel. (2018).
Culture and traditions of Scotland. Retrieved from
Ulin, R. C. (2007).
Revisiting cultural relativism: Old prospects for a new cultural critique. Anthropological
Quarterly, 80(3), 803-820. doi:10.1353/anq.2007.0051