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Ethnocentric Monoculturalism and Ernest Becker: An Existential-Psychoanalytic Explanation of Cultural Encapsulation

18 April 2008


The importance of culture in psychology is increasingly being acknowledged. Despite this, cultural competence has been slow to develop in the field (Hall, 2006). Sue (2001) has posited that psychologists themselves represent a major barrier to cultural competence because many are unconsciously trapped within their own Eurocentric worldview, a phenomenon that Sue refers to as ethnocentric monoculturalism. An unfortunate result of ethnocentric monoculturalism in psychology has been an overly narrow focus regarding not only the types of interventions implemented with culturally diverse clients but also the roles that a psychologist should fill (Sue, 2001; Hall, 1997). My purpose in this thesis is to explore the underlying causes and functions of cultural encapsulation represented by ethnocentric monoculturalism through the theory of cultural anthropologist, Ernest Becker. Becker's existential-psychoanalytic theory of culture represents an untapped resource in multicultural clinical psychology for understanding the psychological functions and mechanisms of cultural encapsulation. According to Becker (1973), a fundamental motivating force in human behavior is the awareness of death. Becker believed that culture itself exists in part, as a means for coping with the fear of death. A major argument in this thesis is that one of the reasons that people cling so strongly to their personal belief systems and reject others is because people's belief systems are intimately tied to their own sense of mortality.


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