Australia Ethnocentrism, Cultural Pluralism Essay

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Australia Ethno

Ethnocentrism, Cultural Pluralism and Australia's Struggle for Balance

The colonial expansion of European ideologies, cultures and economies during the 16th and 17th century would produce future generations of settlers positioned throughout the globe. Based on the inherent premise of colonialism imposing suggestions of cultural and racial superiority on the natives of those lands newly reached by Europe's self-proclaimed advanced civilizations, the predominantly Caucasian descendents would proceed to develop fundamentally ethnocentric nations. This would be true in contexts such as North America, Africa, the Caribbean and Australia, all of which would see the widespread and often devastating permeation of white, European exclusion and subjugation. Australia is the instance which most concerns this discussion, as a useful example of a nation which is today struggling to mend the deeply entrenched scars of Ethnocentrism produced by its British colonial background.

Australia is most useful for its fundamental illustration of both concepts which concern the present research investigation. Namely, the preoccupation here with cultural pluralism is well demonstrated to Australia's credit. As an economic force in its region and a member of the Asian Pacific Economic Cooperation (APEC) forum, Australia has been a key player in the process of regional and global trade liberalization. The result is that its economy has increasingly opened to other cultures, producing a domestic landscape that is ever more ethnically diverse and considerably more open to opportunity for those of racial, ethnic or national difference from the traditionally hegemonic white British identity. This effect of opportunity equalization is cultural pluralism, where the nation's identity can be seen increasingly as diverse and less equated with a single hegemonic race and set of national descendents. And yet, evidence denotes a history in Australia which is tended toward resistance to this occurrence. According to Cox (1976), "it is noteworthy that pluralism, seen as preserving the immigrant's heritage w, was preferred by virtually non-of the subjects of a series of studies carried out in western Australia in the early 1960's." (Cox, 112)

Indeed, for its connection to the strains of colonialism -- which have always been inherently racialist in their iniquities -- Australia serves us a great window into the impact of historically entrenched ethnocentrism. With respect to the Aboriginal populations of the continent, evidence abounds that a colonial background founded on British and European dominance has produce such a trend well into present day. The exclusion of native populations from the civic growth, economic development and cultural formulation of present day Australia delivers a fairly precise definition of that which is meant by ethnocentrism. This is a force which uses presumptions of a singular cultural perspective to define such complex systems as moral imperative, religious predilection, political representation and economic philosophy to the outcome that those not conforming to presumed ideals in these categories is inherently and problematically excluded. This is a definition given support "by now classic account of the origins of ethnocentrism has been given by Adorno et al. (1950). These authors identify ethnocentrism as part of a larger 'sickness' (sic) which they call authoritarianism and identify it as a phenomenon of the ideological Right." (Ray, 89) It is thus that the research here will take the decidedly biased position that cultural pluralism is a positive trend which ethnocentrism is a negative trend, qualified as such based on rational views of governmental orientation and the preservation of human rights.

Australia's record on both of these is mixed. In Australia, there is evidence today through the realities of globalization that certain implications to this end are changing in such important areas as the economy. The practical effects of ethnocentric cultural propensities can be far reaching, impacting such broader systems as political representation and economy. This latter category is especially important as the absence of inclusion here can have particularly stultifying effects on those who are considered to be social others. The study by Elliot et al. (1999) discusses the presence of ethnocentrism in Australian consumer culture as a way of understanding how economic systems tend to reflect cultural and ethnic realities. Coming as it does in an era of emergent and optimistic trade globalization, the article measures trends to the conclusion that historical trends of consumer ethnocentrism are fading in favor of a more pluralistic marketplace. To the point, the article indicates that "although the respondents are moderately ethnocentric as measured by CETSCALE (the study's self-designed instrument for evaluating ethnocentric tendencies), in an actual product choice situation, they were found not to prefer local products. In fact, consumers not only evaluated the quality of the cars and jeans assembled and designed in foreign countries as superior, they also preferred to buy those products." (Elliot et al., 5)

This denotes a pattern where the impact of ethnocentrism is eroding in the face of increasingly porous trade borders. The result is a more inclusive economic landscape in Australia that parallels that which is occurring in many other industrialized nations previously dominating by local producers. As with the United States, the U.K. And parts of Western Europe, Australia is finding that international trade liberalization generally involves the establishment of greater economic pluralism. This, the research conducted here has stated, tends to precipitate greater cultural pluralism. In this case, that is likely to mean the increasing cultural ascendancy and equalization of geographically proximal cultures such as those of Southeast Asia and the South Pacific islands as ethnic representatives there from populate mainland Australia.

Unfortunately, this does not fully address the issues facing Aboriginal groups in Australia, who are among the many native populations globally who were relegated to severely diminished populations subsisting in the subjugation of European colonial conquerors. As the most immediate response to claims of Australia's improved pluralism, this is a condition which is well-known to impact the Aboriginal populations native to the continent and much displaced and exploited since the initiation of English settlement over two centuries ago. The result is that today, Aboriginals suffer an exclusion from occupational opportunities, educational institutions and health facilities that impugns Australia's claim to true plurality. The disparity between Aboriginal and Australian populations in terms of political, economic and cultural representation has real and dramatic impacts in such telling areas as public health. Marmot's (2005) article underscores the currency of this issue and the potentially devastating outcome of a white, non-native ethnocentrism that does define Australia in many ways. Marmot contends that "a particularly telling example of health inequalities within countries is the 20-year gap in life expectancy between Australian Aboriginal and Torres Strait Islander peoples -- life expectancy is 56 3 years for men and 62 8 years for women -- and the Australian average. The men in this population would look unhealthy in India (male life expectancy 60 1 years) whereas Australian life expectancy is among the highest in the world, marginally behind Iceland, Sweden, and Japan." (Marmot, 1100)

This is a troubling gap that denotes the living conditions distinguishing two separate experiences in the same nation. And unfortunately, this condition has remained thusly even as Australian policy has begun to be adopted toward a change. This is to suggest that there has been a longstanding failure of the federal government to recognize the needs of the indigenous populations throughout Australia and that more recently the subject has been a matter of undoing historical obstructions. These have largely been rendered by an ethnocentric reality characteristic the world over of the descendents of colonialism. Though there have been policy steps made toward resolving the serious imbalance between indigenous and English-speaking populations, the obstruction to successful actualization of such policy demonstrates the long-term impact of marginalization. In this context, it has made it particularly difficult to penetrate historical inequalities produced by cultural, geographical and linguistic biases resultant from English settlement during the 18th century.

Davies (1992) provides the discussion with a compelling example of how ethnocentrism can function to a somewhat insurmountable exclusion. Davies, an Australian linguist, who by no small point of irony itself is speaking from within a continent formerly dominated by aboriginal tribal dialects and now entirely governed by and identified with English, argues that the primacy of English in Australia has been an ethnocentric and culturally destructive force. He is specifically critical of the idea that English has been in any way unique in history, as opposed to simply dominant by way of its supporting culture.

In Australia, the impact is quite apparent on society, which is a fully English speaking society. Where job opportunities, political representation, public advocacy, pursuit of education, research in health access and practically every other crucial area of Australian civil life is concerned, the languages previously dominating the continent are in scarce to non-existent evidence. For the Aboriginal citizen of Australia, communication within mainstream Australian society must generally be conducted in the conquering English language. This is a demonstration of an ethnocentrism that will not be corrected. This is because of the connection between ethnocentrism and cultural genocide, which literally causes the death of culture by assimilating those who would perpetuate it. By the necessity… [end of preview; READ MORE]

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