What is Eurocentrism?
Eurocentrism is a worldview that favours western civilisation over non-western civilisations. It is a biased view that assumes superiority of European cultural values over non-European societies and values. Eurocentrism ignores or undervalues non-European societies, judging them to be inferior to the west. It also views non-European societies in European terms.
Western values which include individuality, human rights, democracy, equality, free markets and social justice are seen as the optimal way to solve problems and the ‘right’ or ‘correct’ way for a society to operate regardless of how different societies are socially, historically, or culturally.
What is the difference between Eurocentrism and Ethnocentrism?
Now that you know what Eurocentrism is, you might wonder how it differs to Ethnocentrism.
While Eurocentrism believes that the western practices and way of doing things is ‘correct’, Ethnocentrism is a concept that describes how we often view our own ethnic, racial group, or society as superior to others. It is a judgement that is made based on our own culture where we believe that our practices are the correct way to operate rather than the practices of other cultures and societies.
Ethnocentrism is learned as we grow up because as we are socialised, we engage in practices and traditions within our own culture, and these become the ‘norm’ or viewed as ‘normal’. We usually automatically assume that any practice that is not part of our own culture is wrong or not normal.
A major downfall of this way of thinking is that when we label another group as ‘them’ or ‘other’ and perceive their practices as strange or out of the ordinary, it creates an un-cooperative relationship with these groups since engaging in practices or traditions that fall outside of our view of normal might require us to compromise our own culture.
What are examples of Eurocentrism?
There are many different examples of eurocentrism, including:
- The view that non-European societies can be undemocratic and subservient compared to the West who value individualism.
- Believing that non-European societies believe in strange religions that are inferior to Christianity.
- The perception that non-European societies lack concern for human life and practice cruel customs towards women such as foot binding.
- The view that non-European societies are poor and underdeveloped compared to the progressive and rich West.
Eurocentric and ethnocentric ways of thinking are incredibly biased and are not an accurate reflection of values and diversity of different cultures and societies. It’s important that as individuals we reflect on our biases and challenge them. If you found yourself agreeing with some of the examples above or believe them, reflect on why you think that is the case and remember that just because a society or culture engages in practices that you do not, does not make them wrong or backwards.
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