Ethnocentrism and its Effects on Individuals, Societies, and Multinationals

The film selected for review and aiding in analyzing the concept of ethnocentrism and its effects on individuals, societies, and multinationals is “The Namesake”.

Released in 2007, the film chronicles the lives of an Indian couple and their children as they attempt to adjust to the cultural dynamics involved in emigrating from West Bengal in India, to the US, and raising their children to appreciate the intricacies of these two varying cultures (Bahri, 2007, p.10).

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The film is divided into two parts, the first part portraying the couple (Ashoke and Ashima) in India, then the second part portrays their life in the US, with subsequent scenes involving movement between the two countries.

Ethnocentrism is the belief that one’s own culture, (in-group), is superior to other cultures and involves the tendency to view other cultures as secondary, with the central focus and point of reference being the individual’s culture. In the film “Namesake”, Ashoke and Ashima want to raise their children to respect and practice their Indian culture and value their Indian heritage, which they believe is better and superior to the more liberal American culture.

They especially want their children to remain true to the Indian culture of courtship and marriage, which involves arranged marriages, an expectation that unsurprisingly causes friction with their children who have taken to the comparatively liberal American culture of courtship and marriage. Viewing the film, one gets the sense of importance that Indians attach to the institution of marriage.

Unlike the American culture, that puts emphasis on courtship and getting to know one’s spouse before marriage, Indian couples rarely court, and yet as portrayed in the film, marriages in India last longer than most American marriages.

Ethnocentrism has an impact on how societies and individuals in it relate to members of other societies. Watching the film, the struggles of Gogol Ganguli (the couple’s first son), as he tries to fit into the American lifestyle in his teen hood resonates with me. Many Americans view the American culture as the prototype for all cultures, and Asian cultures, especially Indian culture, is viewed – a view I had before watching the film – as overly conservative and retrogressive.

No matter how hard Gogol tries, by dating American women, listening to ‘American’ songs like rock music, and reading American books, he finds that he cannot escape from his Indian heritage, and finally resolves to understand his Indian culture more.

He finds out that his own heritage is not necessarily inferior to the American culture. Watching the film also gave me an insight into the Indian culture that positively altered my view of the same. The sense of communal warmth that permeates the Indian society is admirable, and Indian communities are much more closely-knit than the American communities are. I especially found the elaborate ritual of honoring the dead in Indian society as a befitting send-off for the dead honorable in Indian Society.

Multinationals and other organizations that operate across different nationalities and cultures encounter the effect of ethnocentrism especially concerning consumer products. As an American, I tend to buy only American products at home, and consumer products from Asian countries especially India and China are frowned upon in our home.

American cars such as Ford and Chevrolet models are also preferred to Japanese models like Toyota and Honda. This practice therefore, dictates that multinationals have to factor in the effect of ethnocentrism on their products as part of their consumer research studies.

‘Consumer ethnocentrism’ therefore, has an impact on the sale of imported goods within an importing country, especially since imported goods affect domestic output and may negatively impact on local jobs (Durvasula & Lysonski 2006, p.12). The direct relationship that the concept of ethnocentrism has on the sale of foreign products in America is especially significant.

References

Bahri, D. (2007). The Namesake. Film Quarterly, 61(1), 10-15.

Durvasula, S., & Lysonski, S. (2006). Impedance to globalization: The impact of economic threat and ethnocentrism. Journal of Global Marketing, 19(3/4), 9-32.