When people consider their culture, race, or nationality superior to other cultures, races, or nationalities, or when they view and evaluate other cultures through the lens of their own culture, we say that they are being ethnocentric. Ethnocentrism can be difficult to avoid because we are all informed by our experiences, and it is not always easy to recognize how our cultural lenses affects our world-views. While we may perceive our ways of living as the best and most valid, global awareness encourages us to remember that there are other, equally valid lifestyles and experiences. In order to write with global awareness, then, we should avoid writing ethnocentrically.
Here are some questions to ask yourself as you write:
- Am I making broad generalizations, or do I write with complexity and nuance about people who are different than me? Am I considering other perspectives respectfully rather than in a patronizing or paternalistic way?
- Am I making value judgments about other ways of living? If so, are they appropriate to the specific discipline or course for which I'm writing?
- Do I use thorough and fair scholarly sources?
- Are all of my claims supported with evidence?
- Do my warrants (the logic connecting my evidence to my claims) rely on Western/American definitions or world-views (for example, evidence: a certain group of people still uses hunting and gathering as its primary mode of subsistence; claim: people in this group are uncivilized; warrant: “civilization” is defined by advanced agriculture)?
- Am I aware of my own cultural biases and mindful about how they might affect my scholarship and language choices?