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Ethnocentrism 101: Who Are You Quoting and Why?

In the previous 101 Article ethnocentrism was defined, with a historical example and the way it has contributed to soft things as differentiation of cultural behaviors, to a more extreme negative practice when is used to justify human rights vulnerations. One of the main features of ethnocentrism is that it has been identified as inherited intergenerationally, by that of course, it is not limited to a grandparent’s tale on a family dinner talking about “those people” who comes from a “certain culture” and behaves “on that way”. Ethnocentrism also happens in the academy, the media, and most of the institutionality. Certain nations have more income (which has become important when establishing the dominant cultures, but still not a final influence) and the nature of that wide budget can be or not questionable in terms of ethics. Nevertheless, most of the time, when a Nation gets more resources, the more probable to find part of that money invested in academic research. This research can involve the possibility to pay for certain materials, instruments to finally be able to proceed with brand new experimentation, research, or even the updating of previous research and more. There is no denial about how much of a difference does it make when a country invests in science; even there, we must be aware that fresh perspectives and bright ideas or important skills are not always related to the budget of a laboratory, university, or country.

By the considerations above, it would be a nice exercise to question everything what is supposed to be. Why do all of the common authors quoted in Social Sciences come from certain countries? Especially authors that are considered “classic” or “elemental” in certain subjects. Why some good ideas for analysis or classification of the human experience in society are taken lightly just because of the origin they have? Science is monetarized, as much as education and to be objective; having money does not make anyone automatically smarter. At least in social sciences, the practice of reading a non-occidental author’s work is taken as provocative literature instead of serious work because it is an isolated situation more than a long-term impact in the academy. It can result in anger coming from the ethnic minorities (named minorities in relation to their representation, not the demographics), and most occidental authors do not remove their ethnocentric perspective when talking about non-occidental people and their cultural practices. Also, the attempts of work coming from ethnic minorities as its own authors start to find obstacles and sometimes vanish in the many devices dominant cultures have developed to alienate them from their own identity. Resistance is the sign that something better than oblivion is happening. It might be painful to read, but most of the information taken from ethnic minorities has been through the perspective of occidental authors and assumed as academic knowledge for a long time and a wide number of institutions framed on this European supremacy model of education, even when the same ethnical minorities have to make academic reviews of their own history and social dynamics.

Being partially tolerated by the opposition thanks to the fact that she has a Ph. D. At Leiden University among other academic degrees, proving once again that an ethnic minority and their knowledge can only be validated when having academic degrees in Europe. Not before
Elisa Loncón is a Mapuche woman who has been recently chosen as president of the Chilean Constituent Convention. Being partially tolerated by the opposition thanks to the fact that she has a Ph. D. At Leiden University among other academic degrees, proving once again that an ethnic minority and their knowledge can only be validated by occident when having academic degrees in Europe. Not before

Why is it so hard to find proper academic work written by the same people who are experiencing their ethnicity, or build knowledge from a non-occidental group about another non-occidental group? And also gaining consideration, validation, and popularity for it? Usually, the experience of ethnic minorities gets distorted by the Occidental authors, being that is always more comfortable the speech of “I have seen their traditions, history and understand their cosmovision” because there is no occidental author that has admitted that some non-occidental society was too complex to understand because different cannot be more complex than the mainstream culture; and that is the point of view that all students have to forcibly take and reproduce. Those ethnocentric academic practices had left a lot of space for misunderstanding. It is an infinite chain of conceptions that are born from occidental views based on the work of occidental authors about non-occidental societies.

Another factor that goes along with the narrative about ethnic minorities, not being the authors of their own knowledge publications, is the unfounded academic criticism that goes against some attempts of ethnic minorities to develop their own studies, criticism that sometimes had even been related to the data selection criteria. It cannot be addressed as mistakes made in the context of learning, because on their effects, these academic behaviors are not far from the scenario back in the early XIX Century, appreciations made by Social Scientists back then, on which “magic” was a part of the “early stages of social knowledge”. It can be mind-blowing that science and magic are not on a hierarchical scale, they are just different ways to perceive the order of the world, the second one has been a way to find solutions for problems. But this magic so-called is not far from spirituality, and to validate spirituality in occident, it is necessary to talk about its benefits with studies and numbers, becoming “hard science” an excellent method to make any knowledge be validated. Another thing exact science brings is the illusion of control; a prime feature of occidental culture, and it is very hard to go against that idea even nowadays.

After everything that is mentioned above, the world is big enough (even in globalized times) and history has been experimented by a wide amount of people for it to be possible that only one perspective is the “real” one. A good practice that would help to reach a truly wide and rich perspective of cultures, history, methodologies in social studies is to question through who are we learning other cultures, who are we quoting to validate knowledge and even the way we approach the knowledge that is not the one integrated through our classist tales about “the truth”. The exercise to use occidental authors as a part of our study and not as a whole could make the difference, to finally decolonize knowledge is to be awake and aware of the limits of it, to fight individual human experience and complement it with many different others. Only after the exercise of including a variety of voices and perspectives about the history and ways of living we might be able to build responsible knowledge.


- Picture of Elisa Loncón,

- Karoui, S., & Khemakhem, R. (2019). Consumer ethnocentrism in developing countries. European Research on Management and Business Economics, 25(2), 63-71.

- Stanfield, J. H. (1985). The Ethnocentric Basis of Social Science Knowledge Production. Review of Research in Education, 12, 387.


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Melisa Silva

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