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The Cultures

Key terms

Mentally, humans survive by recognizing patterns. We’re social animals; we like groups, especially our own. We want our lives to mean something, even if we have to invent and imagine that meaning.

Anyone you know?

Anyone you know?


You believe that your native country, culture, language, and behavior are central or superior to all others. Most humans, wherever they live, are ethnocentric and are not interested in other cultures, believing them inferior.


You take the view that local people understand their own life and practices. You can adapt to other cultures, including your own, while you are there. People with this “host-country orientation” enjoy immersing themselves in foreign cultures.


You accept that there are differences and similarities between home and foreign life and practices. You use whatever techniques are most effective without bias in any direction.

Global Competence
Hunter, 2004

Having an open mind while actively seeking to understand cultural norms and expectations of others, leveraging this gained knowledge to interact, communicate and work effectively outside one’s usual environment.

How globally competent are you?

How globally competent are you?

Our future?

Our future?

Most of the links below are to the Wikipedia articles on these topics, from which the accompanying text is quoted or adapted.


the practice of viewing the world from a European perspective and with an implied belief, either consciously or subconsciously, in the preeminence of the European social model.

Child Well-Being In Rich Countries


a reading of world history that emphasizes the importance of African people, taken as a single group and often equated with black people, in culture, philosophy, and history. Proponents of Afrocentrism claim that the contributions of various African cultures have been downplayed and need to be excavated from beneath an “official” historical record that has deliberately kept them hidden.

The world with China in the center

The world with China
in the center


an ethnocentric perspective that regards China to be the center of civilization and superior to all other nations (diagram on left). In China, common names for China include “Zhonghua” (中华/中華) and “Zhongguo” (中国/中國), Central Kingdom, most excellent center.

American exceptionalism

American exceptionalism refers to the theory that the United States is qualitatively different from other countries. … Historian Gordon Wood has argued, “We Americans are a special people with a special destiny to lead the world toward liberty and democracy.” …Although the term does not necessarily imply superiority, many neoconservative and American conservative writers have promoted its use in that sense. To them, the United States is like the biblical “shining city on a hill,” and exempt from historical forces that have affected other countries.

How great is the U.S.?

How great is the U.S.?

The case for American exceptionalism was made recently by Newt Gingrich in the video A City Upon A Hill: The Spirit Of American Exceptionalism – trailer

Most Americans think the U.S. is great, but fewer say it’s the greatest
Pew Research Center, July 2, 2014

The decline in the view that the U.S. is the greatest country in the world has occurred across most demographic and political groups, but it has been particularly acute among Republicans.

Ranking America – a site for information about the U.S. – How does the U.S. rank in …

How great is the U.S.?

How great is the U.S.?


Certain socio-cultural norms, attitudes and practices arose in Europe in the seventeenth century and have developed since, in various ways and at various times, around the world.

  • a questioning or rejection of tradition
  • priority given to the individual, freedom, and formal equality
  • faith in inevitable social, scientific and technological progress and human perfectibility
  • rationalization and professionalization (ex: accountants and spreadsheets)
  • a movement from feudalism (or agrarianism) toward capitalism and the market economy
  • industrialization, urbanization and secularization
  • the development of the nation-state and its constituent institutions (e.g. representative democracy, public education, modern bureaucracy) and forms of surveillance (wx: IRS tax forms, in-store cameras, National Security Agency spying, Facebook)

People in WEIRD countries take these values for granted. However, they are not espoused by most humans, who are struggling with modernity. Younger people in these countries, under influence of the Internet, are often stronger proponents of modernity than their parents.

Cultural Imperialism

While modernity is, by definition, new, cultural imperialism has been around as long as we’ve been human:

the practice of promoting and imposing a culture, usually of politically powerful nations over less potent societies.

As it relates to this course, cultural imperialism is expressed as media imperialism, the dominance of English-language media and thus the English language.

The threat is that smaller cultures are losing their identity because of the dominance of media from larger cultures. It can be equated to small community shops closing down due to large superstores moving in, taking over, and having a monopoly. When the most compelling media available in one country is produced by a different, more dominant nation, the culture of that larger nation, along with its values and interests, will displace that of the home country.

Social dominance orientation (SDO)

This can be a scary place.

This can be a scary place.

SDO is the name social scientists give to the universal human personality trait which predicts social and political attitudes. … It is a measure of an individual’s preference for hierarchy within any social system and the domination over lower-status groups.

Individuals who score high in SDO desire to maintain and, in many cases, increase the differences between social statuses of different groups, as well as individual group members. Typically, they are dominant, driven, tough, and relatively uncaring seekers of power. People high in SDO also prefer hierarchical group orientations. Often, people who score high in SDO adhere strongly to belief in a “dog-eat-dog” world. It has also been found that men are generally higher than women in SDO measures.


Homer speaks

Homer speaks

the reduction and removal of barriers between national borders in order to facilitate the flow of goods, capital, services and labour producing an increasingly integrated and complex global system of production and exchange.