How does our ethnocentric view contribute to our production & decoding of media? Do we have the right to subjugate others to our beliefs and values under any circumstances?
Ethnocentrism, a term coined by William Graham Sumner, is the tendency to look at the world from the perspective of our culture/identity. Each of us has an ethnocentric lens on our reality and every bit of media we consume either challenges or reinforces those beliefs and values. The content of the Internet is overly oriented to an Occident (yes I am actually using that word on purpose) ethnocentric worldview of values and beliefs based on neoliberal ideologies, protestant work ethics, patriarchal structures with a consumerist core and hyper-sexualised imagery through the exclusive use of the English language. Everything else seems to be either judged through that lens or just excluded from it. The global media is not much different, so the social norms being set by a minority in the global village could be coercing the majority into subjugating local knowledge, values and beliefs for something else.
Today this is of particular relevance as more and more individuals exercise their human right to migrate into and across over-populated spaces. Arguments abound as to what values and beliefs national laws and social norms should follow.
Some people are consciously/unconsciously selecting their exposure to information to avoid cognitive dissonance and in this way their beliefs and values are consistently reinforced in addition to engaging with people of like mind. Others may get the same messaging by accident-on purpose due to their lack of access to diverse media and opinions.
Franz Boas suggested (1887) that an individual’s beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual’s own culture. This approach is known as “cultural relativism” and a key component of cultural relativism is the concept that there is no such thing as a neutral worldview. Therefore the best way to deal with our ethnocentric assumptions is not to pretend that they don’t exist but instead acknowledge them, and be aware that they inform our interpretations of the world around us.
Researchers can try to mitigate their ethnocentric lens on the world as much as possible by:
- accepting that other world views are not better or worse, just different
- apply alternative viewpoints to research questions for a wider scope on a topic
- promote/present diverse world views whenever/wherever possible
- share the value of diverse viewpoints and the benefits of learning from them
- consider alternative viewpoints of contentious issues to seek common ground