In order to understand ethnocentrism, it is also necessary to understand what anthropology is . This is a science whose main objective is to study the reality of the individual through a totally holistic approach . So, ethnocentrism is a concept created by anthropology in order to understand the way in which individuals understand reality from the point of view of their cultural parameters .


What is ethnocentrism?

The ethnocentrism in the tendency of an individual or a group of people to qualify so positive the customs themselves while qualifying so negative beliefs, cultures and customs of people or places outside of their own.

  • History
  • Founder
  • Characteristics of ethnocentrism
  • Types
  • Ethnocentrism and racism
  • How it differs from cultural relativism
  • Importance
  • Representatives of ethnocentrism
  • Plays
  • Examples


Many experts consider that the history of ethnocentrism as such begins with Ludwig Gumplowicz , in the 19th century. According to his theory, the term was related to a group of different reasons why people considered that they were in a higher place than others, from a cultural point of view .


During the twentieth century , William G. Sumner established two different definitions for the term, on the one hand he defined it as a feeling of love and adherence to the cultural group to which they belonged, which caused a feeling of superiority. Since that time, the term has been used worldwide to refer to ethnocentrism as a way of thinking.


It is considered so generally to William G. Sumner as the creator and founder of the term.

Characteristics of ethnocentrism

Among the main characteristics that can be observed with respect to ethnocentrism, the following are mentioned:

  • It encompasses a whole group of attitudes , ways of behaving and beliefs .
  • Is generally different judgments to other types of cultures that are not their own.
  • People who practice it think that only things related to their country have validity.
  • It affects the way relationships , sex , art, and beliefs are viewed .
  • Different hierarchies are established .
  • The original culture is seen as the best in the world and the others as inferior .
  • With it , biases , prejudices and especially racism arise .
  • Judgments are made of cultures based on preconceptions.


It is possible to find different types of ethnocentrism around the world, and these will depend on the beliefs that have been instilled and provoked in the environment in which a person develops. The most important ones are mentioned below:

  • Xenocentrism : it is also known by the name of inverse ethnocentrism and is based on the idea that its own culture has a lower value than the others.
  • Racial ethnocentrism : In this type of thinking, people have the assurance in their minds that their culture is superior to others from an ethnic point of view. These people tend to label others as “mixed race,” “weird,” or “different.”
  • Linguistic : it occurs in those people who consider that their native language is superior to the language of other countries or ethnic groups. For this group of ethnocentrists the other languages ​​are seen as wild languages.
  • Religious ethnocentrism : this type of behavior occurs in those people who consider and believe that their religion is the only one, the one that has validity and the one that is totally true. They are also characterized by offending people who believe in different things and for this reason, for them, these people are ignorant and lacking in culture.
  • Eurocentrism : in this case, the world is seen from the point of view of the Western European experience that justifies, at the expense of different cultures, the paradigms and ethical norms that establish universal benefits.
  • Afrocentrism : in this case, the historical point of view of the world is taken into account giving priority to Africans, seeing them as a single group and transforming them into people of “black race” in aspects related to culture, philosophy and history.
  • Sinocentrism : this term is used to consider China as the most important center of cultures.

Ethnocentrism and racism

It is important to remember that ethnocentrism is the attitude of a group of people who see their culture as unique , superior, and better than all others. When this type of attitude is deeply ingrained, it can cause racism to begin to occur because for ethnocentrists, there is nothing better than their own culture and everyone else has a high degree of inferiority . This feeling of superiority on the part of one of the groups is what can, at some point, generate a feeling of prejudice towards other groups, and this is basically what is known as racism.

How it differs from cultural relativism

Let us remember that ethnocentrism is an act by means of which other cultures are understood and evaluated taking into account the parameters of their own culture, but always seeing the latter with greater importance , with superiority and greater variety and importance. The cultural relativism turns out to be anything contrary to ethnocentrism PUE conceives the culture of each group or society as a closed system, full of morality and able to have the same skills than others.

Relativism gives all cultures equal the same values , the rationality and the criteria themselves which can have a culture. For this type of thinking, cultures have stable values, usefulness and adaptation . In addition, it does not produce criticism of others and does not judge the way of being of other cultures.


The importance lies in understanding and knowing the meaning of the word in order to prevent future generations from falling into ethnocentrism in such a way that it can affect and control the way of thinking and acting in relation to other cultures. Although it is good to have respect and follow the norms of a certain culture, this must be well analyzed to avoid falling into harmful and harmful behaviors such as racism .

Representatives of ethnocentrism

Some of the most recognized representatives of ethnocentrism are mentioned below:

  • William Sumner
  • Michel Foucault


Some works from which important information related to this topic can be obtained are:

  • Racism, Ethnocentrism and Literature. The Andean indigenous novel.
  • Ethnocentrism and Theories of International Relations. A critical view.


Some examples of ethnocentrism are mentioned below:

  • Conquest of America due to the disrespect and slavery that was exercised by the Europeans against the American aborigines.
  • Nazi extermination because the Aryan race had a broad ethnocentric vision of their culture.
  • Islamic Jihad that through the Holy War and radical groups united with ISIS attacked the West to impose its religious code.
  • Border between Mexico and North America that contains a whole ethnocentric dilemma among Latin Americans mainly related to human rights .
  • Rwandan genocide where an African tribe tried to exterminate another.

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