Re: Ethnocentrism?

Richard Spear (rspear@PRIMENET.COM)
Thu, 5 Jan 1995 19:00:35 PST

In article Bjorn Conrad Fry <bear@USNET.US.NET> writes:
>Date: Thu, 5 Jan 1995 20:37:25 -0500
>Reply-To: Bjorn Conrad Fry <bear@USNET.US.NET>
>From: Bjorn Conrad Fry <bear@USNET.US.NET>
>Subject: Ethnocentrism?
>To: Multiple recipients of list ANTHRO-L

>Happy New Year All!

> Several times now, a number of us have been labeled as ethnocentric
>to one degree or another, in response to contributions we have made to this
>list. It would be prudent to point out here, that in each instance a
>fundamental disagreement existed between the beliefs of the "labelers" and
>those of the "labelees". That said, do not those of us, so labeled or
>named, along with others on the list, deserve to understand what
>definition/s of ethnocentrism was or were entailed? Conversely, would it
>not also be important to understand what it means not to view the world
>ethnocentrically? How would fundamental leanings towards relativistic and
>absolutist points of view play a role?
[rest deleted]

Bjorn - I find this post interesting and quite relevant to the ongoing
discussion concerning racism, sexism, etc. By the way, happy new year to you,
too. Central to all of these debates is just who defines the terms and playing
field? At the risk of being too much the generalist and abstractor, the issue
at hand is essentially a struggle for power. Culture is socially defined and
society is a battleground for folks with differing interests and concerns -
many contributors to this "discussion" have tried to approach it rationally -
I'm not sure (in fact there's a lot of evidence to contradict the fact) that
human behavior and human relations ultimately derive from rational decision
making. For instance, those men busily trying to "rationalize" their position
in regard to language use are struggling to maintain a position of advantage,
while the women arguing against these men are raising issues that will deny
them (the men) this advantageous position ... this should not be surprizing to

I suggest that the victors will determine the language to be used for dialog
and that has always been true (shades of Adolph Hitler!). The situation is
dynamic - African Americans have altered and continue to alter the way we
refer to them (and, one hopes, treat them) and women have altered and continue
to alter the way we refer to them (and one hopes, treat them).

Struggles for power are unavoidable when groups interact and the struggles and
outcomes are real and meaningful to the people involved ... the disconcerting
thing to me has been the attempts at *formalizing* positions ... the arrogance
of those that insist on acknowledgement of their stand as the only viable one
and the ridicule of those who disagree ... I expect that of others, but

Regards, Richard