Who coined the concept of ‘ethnocentrism’? | Sociology for CUET by Vikash Ranjan | Sociology Guru


Question: Who coined the concept of ‘ethnocentrism’?

  1. Adorno
  2. Sumner
  3. Learner
  4. Garfunkle

Answer: (3)

Ethnocentrism: Understanding the Concept and Its Implications


Ethnocentrism, a concept deeply embedded in the realms of anthropology and sociology, refers to the inclination to view the world through the lens of one’s own ethnic culture. The term has far-reaching implications, shedding light on how individuals perceive, interpret, and interact with diverse cultures. Coined by William Graham Sumner, ethnocentrism has become a pivotal concept for understanding cultural biases, research methodologies, and the dynamics of intercultural relations.

Defining Ethnocentrism:

At its core, ethnocentrism reflects a natural human tendency – the predisposition to evaluate other cultures based on the standards and values of one’s own. It encompasses not only a sense of cultural pride but also the potential for viewing other cultures as inferior or deviant. This evaluative framework arises from factors such as religion, language, customs, and shared history.

The Origin: William Graham Sumner:

The concept of ethnocentrism can be attributed to William Graham Sumner, a pioneering sociologist and key figure in American sociology during the late 19th and early 20th centuries. Sumner introduced the term in his work “Folkways” (1906), wherein he explored the patterns and norms shaping human behavior within different cultures. Sumner’s recognition of the inherent biases individuals bring to their cultural perceptions laid the foundation for the concept of ethnocentrism.

Ethnocentrism in Research:

One critical dimension of ethnocentrism unfolds in the domain of research methodologies. The question arises as to whether the ethnocentric biases of researchers influence the data they gather. This scrutiny is particularly relevant in anthropology, where researchers engage with diverse cultures. The challenge lies in maintaining objectivity and avoiding the imposition of one’s cultural framework onto the subject of study.

Anthropological Insights:

Ethnocentrism has been a recurrent theme in anthropological studies. Anthropologists aim to understand and appreciate cultures without undue bias, recognizing the diversity of human societies. Ethnographic research, which involves immersive engagement with a culture, necessitates overcoming ethnocentric tendencies. Anthropologists strive to present cultures in their own terms, without the distortion of external judgments.

Sociological Implications:

In sociology, ethnocentrism becomes evident in intergroup relations, social stratification, and the formulation of societal norms. Examining the role of ethnocentrism unveils how it influences group dynamics, societal hierarchies, and the perpetuation of cultural norms. Understanding ethnocentrism is crucial for sociologists studying the complexities of multicultural societies.

Globalization and Ethnocentrism:

As the forces of globalization bring diverse cultures into closer contact, the need to overcome ethnocentrism becomes more pronounced. While pride in one’s culture is natural, the danger lies in perpetuating stereotypes and harboring prejudiced views. Global interactions demand a shift towards a more inclusive perspective, fostering mutual understanding and cooperation.

Overcoming Ethnocentrism:

Overcoming ethnocentrism is a challenging yet imperative task for individuals navigating an interconnected world. Cultural relativism, an anthropological concept emphasizing the understanding of cultures within their own contexts, serves as a counterforce to ethnocentrism. Education, exposure to diverse cultures, and fostering intercultural communication are essential components of overcoming ethnocentric biases.


In conclusion, ethnocentrism, conceptualized by William Graham Sumner, unveils the intricacies of cultural perceptions and biases. Its manifestations are evident in research methodologies, anthropological studies, sociological analyses, and global interactions. While ethnocentrism is a natural inclination, acknowledging and addressing it is paramount for fostering cultural understanding, embracing diversity, and navigating the complexities of an interconnected world. The journey towards overcoming ethnocentrism requires a commitment to cultural relativism, education, and open-minded engagement with the richness of human diversity.


Take a Quick Sociology Quiz to measure your Performance


Frequently Asked Questions:

1. Question: Define the term “ethnic movement” and provide an example from India.

Answer: An ethnic movement refers to a collective effort by a group sharing common cultural, linguistic, or religious traits, seeking to assert their identity and rights; an example from India is the Khalistan Movement in Punjab.

2. Question: Identify the main objectives behind the Gorkhaland ethnic movement.

Answer: The Gorkhaland ethnic movement primarily seeks to establish a separate state for India’s Nepali-speaking population in the Darjeeling region, advocating for linguistic and cultural recognition and political autonomy.

3. Question: What was the Operation Blue Star, and which ethnic movement was it related to?
Answer: Operation Blue Star was a military action in 1984, aiming to remove Sikh militants hiding in the Golden Temple in Amritsar; it is related to the Khalistan movement, which sought a separate Sikh country.

4. Question: Mention a critical factor that triggered the emergence of ethnic movements in India, as discussed by Dipankar Gupta.
Answer: Dipankar Gupta emphasized that ethnicity is fundamentally a political process, wherein caste and religion, the key components of identity formation, are politicized by leaders for vested interests.

5. Question: What were the primary reasons for the Assam Ethnicity conflicts involving Bodo tribals and Bengali Muslim settlers?
Answer: The Assam Ethnicity conflicts primarily stemmed from issues related to immigration, land rights, and resource allocation, leading to clashes, riots, and evolving relationships among indigenous communities to address challenges.

6. Question: Briefly describe the role of the Dravidian Movement in terms of caste and societal structure.
Answer: The Dravidian Movement, led notably by E.V. Ramasamy, aimed to establish an egalitarian society, focusing on anti-Brahmanism and advocating for equal rights for backward castes, while also introducing reforms like self-respect marriages.

7. Question: Name the prominent ethnic movements in North-East India and specify one common objective.
Answer: Prominent ethnic movements in North-East India include the Nagas’ and Mizos’ struggles; a common objective was to gain autonomy and recognition for their distinct tribal identities and cultural uniqueness.

8. Question: What is the key argument of Gail Omveldt regarding traditional Indian society and multiculturalism?
Answer: Gail Omveldt opposed romanticizing traditional Indian society, arguing that hierarchy has always dominated it and dismissing the notion that multiculturalism is an intrinsic feature of Indian society as a myth.

9. Question: Briefly explain the social hierarchy factor as a contributing element to ethnic movements as suggested by Olzak.
Answer: Olzak suggests that the construction of hierarchies among ethnic communities, which often leads to the suppression of one group by another, is a key factor that can instigate social and ethnic movements.

10. Question: Identify one consequence of the unequal economic development factor within the context of ethnic movements in India.
Answer: One consequence of unequal economic development is the marginalization and underdevelopment of certain groups, leading to feelings of alienation and sometimes initiating ethnic movements as these groups strive for equality and recognition.

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