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Ethnocentrism - Definition, Universalizing Ethnocentrism, Conclusion, Bibliography

Science EncyclopediaScience & Philosophy: Ephemeris to Evolution - Historical Background

Ethnocentrism is a notion not widely used in the early twenty-first century. Coined by William Graham Sumner in the early twentieth century, the term owes what conceptual life it has to the likes of anthropology and intercultural communication. Dominant strains of these disciplines, especially anthropology, have examined the lives and cultural expressions of ethnically defined or identified groups and the misinterpretations resulting from Western perspectives.

Nevertheless, a survey of contemporary critical works on ethnicity and race, including those in critical anthropology, reveal an almost complete lack of engagement with the concept. In Anglo-American studies, the term ethnocentrism carries a largely descriptive and fleeting connotation, its meaning more or less taken for granted. It has been overshadowed perhaps by more readily invoked characterizations or charges of racism, racialization, and ethnoracial determination. This is perhaps less the case in mainstream European social analysis, where race remains a largely taboo category and ethnic configurations and characterizations are far more readily and uncritically invoked. It is unsurprising, then, that the thickest critical engagement to be found with the notion of ethnocentrism is in French works from the late 1980s (Taguieff; Todorov).

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