Many Westerners engage in a high degree of ethnocentrism which is the belief that one’s own culture is superior to all others and that their culture’s way of thinking about the world or doing things is the only correct way. Exceptionalism is evident in the belief that people from other cultures are “under-developed”, “primitive”, or “savages”. Western educational systems generally teach from an “Eurocentric” perspective which means students are mostly exposed to the ideas of old,rich,white,straight,often long-dead men. The social theories that underpin the discipline of global health are no exception. The ideas from amazing scholars from the 84% of the world that is non-Western are not regularly presented to students.
We will be critically analyzing how Western ethnocentrism and exceptionalism regularly creates problems in global health work. Some of the problematic Western ethnocentric and exceptionalist ideas we will consider are: 1) “Doing something is always better than doing nothing”, 2) “I want to be a voice for the voiceless”, 3) “Impoverished people in developing countries always want our help”, 4) “Westerners know best how to help impoverished people in developing countries” and 5) ” People in impoverished countries, who are closest to the problems, are not well-educated and are therefore not capable of developing their own solutions”.
Module Learning Objectives
By the completion of this module, the student should be able to do the following:
- Critically analyze and reflect on ideas that challenge the notion of Western ethnocentrism and exceptionalism.
- Critically analyze and reflect on the effects of Western ethnocentrism on global health work.
Required Learning Activities