Ethnocentrism

The term ethnic has been in use in the written English language at least since the fifteenth century and was derived from ethnos in Greek, which was interpreted variously as people, race, culture, or nation. The term was also used by the Greeks to denote heathens, as the term ethnos itself was derived from ethnikos. The term ethnocentric was used in the literature as early as 1898, though the term ethnicity is supposed to have been introduced in the 1940s (Sollors, 1996). The concept of ethnocentrism was defined by Sum-ner in 1906 as "this view of things in which one's own group is the center of everything, and all others are scaled and rated with reference to it. . . . Each group nourishes its own pride and vanity, boasts itself superior, exalts its own divinities, and looks with contempt on outsiders" (Sumner, 1959). The Greeks and Romans, for example, considered all outsiders barbarians. Sumner's use of the term ethnocen-trism has also been interpreted more broadly as an ethnocentric syndrome (Le Vine & Campbell, 1972). Ethnocen-trism is not limited to racial or geographic factors alone; it is based on many other social, cultural, and linguistic factors. It can even be based on ideologies. The boundaries between different ethnic groups are not always clearly demarcated, as ethnicity is often subjective in nature. There are different levels of ethnocentricity, and the extent of ethnocentrism varies considerably (Brewer & Campbell, 1976). The concept of social distance introduced in the 1920s enabled researchers to measure the extent of perceived distance among different ethnic groups. Although the concept of ethnocentrism was originally used as a group-based concept, it is now used to measure individual views and perspectives as well. Concepts such as "the stranger" and "marginal man" introduced by Simmel convey the idea of an individual who generally provided a bridge between the in-group and out-groups. The authoritarian personality studies have addressed the problem of relationship between ethnocentrism and discernible personality traits and characteristics (Forbes, 1985). Attitude scales such as the F scale provide other examples of an authoritarian personality measurement (Brewer & Campbell, 1976). Ethnocentrism, however, needs to be clearly distinguished from xenophobia, jingoism, and chauvinism, although they are all based on ethnocentric views.

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