You can find these three definitions in these videos 😉 We watched them in classand we were talking about these three concepts:


Ethnocentrism, in contrast to cultural relativism, is the tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture.


    • Ethnocentrism often entails the belief that one’s own race or ethnic group is the most important or that some or all aspects of its culture are superior to those of other groups.
    • Within this ideology, individuals will judge other groups in relation to their own particular ethnic group or culture, especially with concern to language, behavior, customs, and religion.
    • Cultural relativism is the belief that the concepts and values of a culture cannot be fully translated into, or fully understood in, other languages; that a specific cultural artifact (e.g., a ritual) has to be understood in terms of the larger symbolic system of which it is a part.
    • Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual person’s beliefs and activities should be understood by others in terms of that individual’s own culture.


  • ethnocentrismThe tendency to look at the world primarily from the perspective of one’s own culture.
  • cultural relativism

    Cultural relativism is a principle that was established as axiomatic in anthropological research by Franz Boas in the first few decades of the twentieth century, and later popularized by his students. Boas first articulated the idea in 1887: “…civilization is not something absolute, but … is relative, and … our ideas and conceptions are true only so far as our civilization goes. “

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Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativism

During the early days of contact between different cultures, ethnocentrism was the norm. Ethnocentrism is the idea that one’s own culture is the main standard by which other cultures may be measured. An ethnocentric is concerned with how similar others’ cultural practices, symbols, and beliefs are to their own.

For instance, a man “x” is an ethnocentrist; he considers others’ beliefs and practices to be savage or corrupt, or he is often confused by other people’s cultures. Very often, people that are ethnocentric don’t know they are using their culture to judge another’s. The culture of an ethnocentric person is considered the ‘normal’ way that things are done.

A competing idea, cultural relativism is the belief that the culture of people serves particular needs and must be looked at in terms of the world the people inhabit. This is often the perspective of social scientists who work with people and is the result of the work of anthropologist Franz Boas.

For instance, a man “y” is a cultural relativist; he prefers to look at other cultures in terms of what their practices bring to them. He believes that if a tribe paints their faces for religious ceremonies, there must be a good reason why they do that. Is there a practical reason for it, or is it symbolic? If symbolic, where do the symbols come from? These questions allow a closer examination of the practices of others than ethnocentrism. This doesn’t imply that a relativist doesn’t have strong beliefs of his own. Rather, other cultures are simply not judged with reference to one’s own culture. Again, this often has to be trained into people.

Attitudes About the World

The difference between the two concepts of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism are the difference between night and day; they are simply different attitudes about the world. A ethnocentric person postulates the observer’s own culture as a standard of measurement, while a cultural relativist person has no standard and views each culture as special, according to its own merits.

Now, there’s nothing wrong with ethnocentric view. Indeed, most people are considered a little ethnocentric. Unless someone is an anthropologist or other social scientist, it may be difficult for someone to appreciate anyone’s behavior without referencing his or her own culture. However, there are problematic actions and attitudes that may be fostered by an ethnocentric attitude.

In resume…

interpreting other people’s cultures/ways in terms of your own; applying your own values/standards to evaluate someone else’s

Cultural Relativism:
Seeking to understand another culture/way of life in its own terms, or native terms, rather than by our own cultural standards




Cultural Universalism implies the existence of over-arching principles (such as human rights) that are applicable cross-culturally and therefore, could be used to determine the rightness or wrongness of specific cultural beliefs and practices.

Intercultural dialogue is a process that comprises an open and respectful exchange between individuals, groups and organisations with different cultural backgrounds or world views. Among its aims are: to develop a deeper understanding of different perspectives and practices; to increase participation (or the freedom to make choices); to ensure equality; and to enhance creative processes.


For many anthropologists, universalism is an idea that has guided research for years. In anthropology, universalism can refer to two things—the idea that all humans and cultural groups are inherently equal, as well as the idea that there are certain aspects of culture that can be universally observed. Both concepts will be discussed in this section.

Universalism as equality

One of the basic assumptions of anthropology is universalism, which is that all humans and cultural groups are inherently equal. This is deeply related to the concept of cultural relativism, which asserts that all cultures have their own relative value. Anthropologists argue that through more research, compassion, and a better understanding of the rest of humanity, we will be able to create more positive interactions.

Universalism as opposed to cultural relativism

When anthropologists talk about universalism, they might also be talking about universalism as opposed to cultural relativism. Cultural relativism, while recognizing the inherent value of different cultures, also involves looking at the differences between cultures. In contrast, anthropologists look at universalism to question whether there are some aspects of culture that can be observed in every society—in all of humanity.

Often, it’s very difficult to find cultural universals. Even aspects of culture that seem evident to us may not be normal in another culture. Cultures vary in terms of primary aspects like food, political structure, marriage, all the way to more complex ideas like freedom of speech, nudity, and much more.

For example, a lot of popular research has looked at the idea of cultural universals of color terms. We could think that, logically, each culture in the world has the same color terms as we do. However, research has shown that not every cultural group splits up the color spectrum in the same way. For example, some cultures only have one color term for blue and green. Clearly, anthropologists can’t take much for granted.

So, are there any cultural universals?

As far as anthropologists know, there are indeed some aspects of life that are common among all cultures. These include the presence of marriage, language use, naming, etiquette, music, tool use, and many more.

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