Category Archives: Assignment 5

Ethnocentrism and its Influence

Finding aid is becoming more and more of a problem for those that need it. In the Democratic Republic of Congo the MONUC had similar colored vehicles to MSF, which caused confusion among the local population in seeing if MSF was actually neutral or not (“In the Eyes of Others…” 10-11). However, MSF’s own ethnocentrism has left them not understanding the people that they are helping, which caused the study discussed in In the Eyes of Others. Working past that ethnocentrism that is engrained within all of us was MSF asking questions to those who they were trying to provide support, and I appreciated that they did this more qualitatively than quantitatively, because I feel like representing these people into number form would not be an improvement, but reducing their answers to words may give us a more complete view. MSF says that how their organization is displayed is affected by other humanitarian aid organizations and politics that are not acting as how they believe they should act, and that they can make change on their own. But isn’t part of the problem discussed in War Games is that organizations and governments are not working together? That the solution to some of these problems is getting everyone on the same page? By working together, asking questions and seeing the effects of what is happening, people can make a better impact on the humanitarian industry than trying to fix it solely as one organization. Trying to fix it all as a single organization seems ethnocentric to me as well. The people MSF and other humanitarian aid organizations are trying to help feel distant from them because they are trying to apply their culture to another culture, which is bringing in bias. The local people cannot understand why MSF chose their name, what it means in French, or even the buildings they use because they are so unlike their own (“In the Eyes of Others…” 25).

A crowd of young people wearing Kony 2012 T-Shirts make the peace sign

“6- Feverish worry over that awful African warlord. But close to 1.5 million Iraqis died from an American war of choice. Worry about that” (Cole).

“…the new paradigm of the “war on terror” has replaced the post-Cole War paradigm of the 1990s. This shift saw the radicalization of certain political actors and the politicization of humanitarian aid…” (“In the Eyes of Others…” 11). Humanitarian aid has changed from it neutrality, even against its own will. As I discussed before, the imagery of humanitarian aid organizations have been tampered with in order to cause confusion among those who need help, and ethnocentrism looms over these agencies. The War on Terror is silly when you think about it. Americans in response to 9/11 declare war on an ill-defined groups called “terrorists”. It is hard to find where you apply this term as well. Can a terrorist be someone who is an American? They cause “terror” and horrific acts, why can they not be called terrorists but foreigners can? This is American ethnocentrism at work, and Kam and Kinder have done a study on how the War on Terror is fueled by ethnocentrism, which they found to be true according to their analyses of interviewed opinion as well as election data (Kam and Kinder).We as Americans think we are the best, “free” and richer than the rest of the world, and that it is our place to step in to other countries and tell them what is wrong without understanding the whole situation and who actually is even guilty. If we were truly invested in making the world a better place, we would work without military influence and instead talk before impulsively acting. This all relates to humanitarian aid because as we see with MSF, they believe, like America, they can do better than everyone else. We must share our ideas on all levels to make the world a better place.

american-way

“5- The White Savior Industrial Complex is not about justice. It is about having a big emotional experience that validates privilege” (Cole).

The White Savior Industrial Complex is an idealism that has been engrained in our country’s past, and is held strong in our ethnocentric present. Even this picture below shows many modern movies that depict white people of a certain privilege helping minority groups within this country make a stand. Who says that these minority groups could not work past their problems without Caucasians having to lead the way? As Cole said in one of this tweets (which is quoted above), helping these other people in need comes from a place in which white people want to feel emotionally better about their actions in the world, and reminds them of their own place. These movies that are shown below create emotional responses in people as well, and the trend of seeing white people in a spot of privilege is reenforcing this idea of ethnocentrism. It is not surprising that these ideals are translated into all actions we do since they seem to be unconscious for the most part, and therefore we can see this in humanitarian aid. When looking at the Radi-Aid website after watching one of their videos, their own goals are as follows: “1. Fundraising should not be based on exploiting stereotypes…2. We want better information about what is going on in the world…3. Media: Show respect…4. Aid must be based on real needs, not “good” intentions…” (“Why Africa for Norway?”). I feel like their satirical presentation of this information will catch people’s eye and allow for more people to realize the ethnocentrism that is being used within the aid industry, as well as their everyday lives. “If you don’t finish your food, that’s some that won’t go to the starving kids in Africa” is something that I’ve heard plenty of times throughout my life, but there are not just starving kids and people in Africa, but everywhere across the globe.

white_savior

 

Works Cited:

Cole, Teju. “The White-Savior Industrial Complex.” The Atlantic. N.p., 21 Mar. 2012. Web. 13 June 2013. <http://www.theatlantic.com/international/archive/2012/03/the-white-savior-industrial-complex/254843/>.

“In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid.” In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/book/perceptions/>.

Kam, Cindy D., and Donald R. Kinder. “Terror and Ethnocentrism: Foundations of American Support for the War on Terrorism.” JSTOR. Cambridge University Press, May 2007. Web. 13 June 2013.

Polman, Linda. War Games. London: Penguin, 2010. Print.

“Why Africa for Norway?” Africa for Norway. N.p., n.d. Web. 13 June 2013. <http://www.africafornorway.no/why>.

 

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Ethnocentrism: Who’s Better than Who?

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Ethnocentrism is defined as belief in the intrinsic superiority of the nation, culture or group to which one belongs, often accompanied by feelings of dislike for other groups (Dictionary.com). While reading In the Eyes of Others, it is apparent that ethnocentrism plays a key role throughout the book. Many different aid organizations are mentioned in the book, but MSF, or Medecins Sans Frontieres, seems to be the most popular one talked about. MSF seems like the type of organization that perfectly fits the definition of ethnocentrism. In the Eyes of Others talks about the flaws of MSF’s program in relation to other aid organizations. It is mentioned that MSF lacked communication and coordination with other international organizations, NGOs, and local associations, and that this is problem that hinders MSF’s work and has an effect on its image, the security of its personnel, access to aid beneficiaries, and the effectiveness of its projects (Abu-Sada 59). I might be going out on a limb when I say this but I believe MSF is purposely keeping to themselves because they think they are better than other aid organizations and don’t want to be associated with them. MSF thinks that they can take care of any problem and solve issues by just utilizing members in their own organization and not branching out.

MSF providing aid to a young boy in Kenya

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It is interesting to note the way people receiving aid feel. In the Eyes of Others talks a lot about the other side of humanitarian aid, aka the people who are actually receiving it. Most countries and people asked said that they liked the humanitarian aid given to them and thought it was a big help, but sometimes it was hard to get to the aid. I think if humanitarian aid is going to be given then the organization should travel to the person or village needing the care. If they are needing help then it doesn’t make sense for a person who is crippled in some way to have to go to the aid.

When reading about MSF on the Doctors without Borders website, I found it interesting how unclear it was where MSF came from and its purpose, to people in other countries. It is mentioned that someone in another country that MSF travels to thought they were from Saudi Arabia and financed by Muslim charities (Doctors without Borders). Another thought that it was a China-based corporation, and yet another thought MSF required everyone who enters their medical facilities to be armed (Doctors without Borders). This just goes to show that while MSF may have good intentions in mind, they are not communicating properly with the people they are trying to help.

I think that the United States as a whole can be very ethnocentric when it comes to humanitarian aid. When working in another country, it seems that a lot of Americans don’t consider the circumstances of the country they are visiting. In the U.S. we are very fortunate that we have things such as running water, transportation to go places on a daily basis, and things of this nature. While browsing the internet about the topic of humanitarian aid and ethnocentrism, I came across a personal blog written by someone with service work experience. He brought up a very good point that reinforces my statement about Americans begin ethnocentric in their humanitarian actions. The author of this blog post stated that Americans are so quick to judge the educational system in other countries, and just because parents aren’t sending their children to class for 10 hours a day, 5 days a week, we assume that those people are stupid and unintelligent. In other cultures, children are raised to do things such a farm work or house work so they do not need the education that people in a Western culture receive. It would literally be useless to them, yet they are still making a living doing something that is accepted by the culture. It is certainly not frowned upon because farm work can be hard labor, so it’s not like these kids are sitting around watching tv all day, which seems to be the case with many people in America; yet we are so ethnocentric that we don’t see anything wrong with kids being lazy and not doing anything because it is taking place in our country which is apparently better than anyone else. It is a shame that people in America act the way they do. They are so quick to judge someone in another country because their culture is different from ours, yet the same person who is judging is not doing anything about it. They still aren’t helping people in other countries, just adding to the problem by thinking they are superior to everyone else.

I wanted to conclude with a note on the video posted under assignment 5, Arica for Norway. I thought it was very compelling because Africa, as a third world country, is helping another country. I also liked the video because I was unaware of what was happening in Norway. We always associate Africa as having so many problems of their own that other countries are always helping them and not vice versa. However, this video shows that even when a country has many unsolved problems of their own, they are still willing to reach out to others. It is mentioned in the video that in Norway, people are freezing because it is so cold, and one African guy mentions that people can die of frostbite as well and that it is just as important an issue as poverty. It is also really neat that Africa is sending heaters to Norway, because Africa is generally a warmer place so a heater is probably not necessary. Overall, I really liked the video and I hope it opens the eyes of some countries that are a little greedier than Africa.

References:

“In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid.” In the Eyes of Others: How People in Crises Perceive Humanitarian Aid. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.doctorswithoutborders.org/publications/book/perceptions/>.

“Ethnocentrism.” Dictionary.com. Dictionary.com, n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://dictionary.reference.com/browse/ethnocentrism>.

“Humanitarian Work Is Ethnocentric and Condecending – INTJ Forum.” Humanitarian Work Is Ethnocentric and Condecending – INTJ Forum. N.p., n.d. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://intjforum.com/showthread.php?t=60301>.

“Africa For Norway – New Charity Single out Now!” YouTube. YouTube, 16 Nov. 2012. Web. 11 June 2013. <http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=oJLqyuxm96k>.
Abu-Sada, Caroline. In the Eyes of Others. United States: MSF-USA, n.d. Print.
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A5: The many manifestations of ethnocentrism


In-the-Eyes-of-Others-cover-smIn the Eyes of Others asks us to do exactly what the title says, look at the humanitarian aid system from the perspective of the beneficiaries/clients.

As one reads through the essays and reports in this book the basic social science term “ethnocentrism” seems to take on a new and deeper significance.  I would argue that ethnocentrism can and does show up in many guises in the world of humanitarian aid, and there are many very good commentaries along these lines.

Certainly The Atlantic essay by Teju Cole “White Savior Industrial Complex” and a half decade earlier in William Easterly in White Man’s Burden the themes and hues of ethnocentrism are presented in great depth.

So, what do you make of ethnocentrism as it related to humanitarian aid?  How is aid seen by “others?”  What indeed, do authors like David Jefferess say about human humanitarian relations?  In short, for this post take this simple term -ethnocentrism- you learned in high school, The Global Experience or in an intro social science course and revisit it vis-a-vis humanitarian relations given what you have learned so far in this course.

[Note:  As always, you are expected to read/watch all embedded links.]

Rubric:

  • Due by 10:00pm EST June 13th.
  • Late posts will be downgraded at least one letter grade.
  • Comments to at least two colleague’s posts by  June 15th by 10:00PM EST.
  • At least three citations: at least one from text and/or other assigned reading, and at least two from outside academic sources.  Note:  you are to read/watch/listen to all of the material in the hyperlinks in the parent post above; your contact with the material should be apparent in your post.
  • List references at the bottom of the page (MLA format).
  • At least one photo and/or video link.
  • Minimum 0f 500 words (excluding references).
  • Grade will be based on quality and quantity of response to the post prompt including adherence to the above benchmarks.
  • Keep in mind that you are writing for a broad audience that is educated and interested in this topic; infuse your post with the sociology you are learning/have learned in a non-jargonistic manner

Please check Assignments/Assignment 5 before you Publish.

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