Confronting the Demons of Ethnocentrism

17 Jun

This post is no longer available on this blog.

This post is now part of J.’s book, Letters Left Unsent, available on Amazon (click the image below to visit the Amazon purchase page).


8 Responses to “Confronting the Demons of Ethnocentrism”

  1. SAM 17 June, 2011 at 6:34 pm #

    Ah, but you missed another, even more pervasive form of ethnocentrism in our community. In our aid culture, which consists of urban, well educated, liberal, multilingual, atheist world travelers, we practice a form of ethnocentrism against our own monolingual, conserative, rural, high school educated, religious, non-passport-holding American (or other nationality) brethren.

    We encounter it all the time in the rest of the world — the government official who discriminates against or at the very least fails to understand his own less fortunate/rural/religious countrymen — and we’re usually pretty self-righteous about defending them. Let’s practice what we preach, yeah?

  2. David Week 17 June, 2011 at 7:22 pm #

    This I learned from Richard Rorty and Hans-Georg Gadamer:

    We are all ethnocentric, always. We can’t escape our ethnos–except perhaps, by long effort, by passing into another ethnos, and being centred there. The fact that we think that people should be treated equally; that respect should be accorded to all, independent of station; that cleanliness and order are signs of virtue (BTW, I *like* Medan airport: especially the thin slices of kue lapis and the miniature drum kits for sale); that suffering is bad; that human life is to be valued; that a thing called “progress” can be achieved through rational planning and discourse. These are all Enlightenment values. And we are all children of the Enlightenment.

    We can’t escape our ethnos (unless you would like to abandon all those values), but we can adopt a reflective, self-conscious stance towards it. This stance means being aware that these values or not “human”, or “universal”, let alone “right’. They just happen to be our values: nothing more, but also nothing less.

    This move does not mean that we abandon them. Rather, it means that we deflate the hubris with which we hold them. We realise that the next Enlightenment might comes not from these, but from Cambodian values, for all we know. (We can’t predict history.) And a hundred years from now, our descendants might like back at us as being as quaint and wrong-headed, as we look upon the issues and the mindsets of those 400 years before us.

  3. JP 25 June, 2011 at 6:18 am #

    Yes, yes, yes, yes, yes, !!!! Especially the last two paragraphs! Ahhh DRC…

  4. AH 7 August, 2012 at 4:55 am #

    A year too late for this but … are you for real?

    When referring to your own culture, you talk about ideas, movements, theories and values.

    When referring to various ‘third world’ ‘cultures’, you talk about traffic inconveniences, dodgy airports and human shit on pavements.

    As if your pet peeves about developing countries are their representative cultural referents.

    Then you take a moment at the end to shake yourself out of your so called ‘ethnocentric’ torpor and decide to accept the people of developing countries for being ‘nothing more than…themselves’.

    How kind.

    As if shitting on pavements is an innate feature third world culture and a tradition as dear to their hearts as social equality is to yours.


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