Fordham University            The Jesuit University of New York



Based on Bennett, M. (2004) Becoming inter-culturally competent. In J. S. Wurzel (Ed.) Toward multiculturalism: A reader in multicultural education. Newton, MA: Intercultural Resource Corporation.

As people become more inter-culturally competent, they begin to view their cultures and the cultures of others differently. The goal of intercultural development is for individuals to move from a place of ethnocentrism to ethno-relativism. In ethnocentrism, people view their own culture as correct and central to reality. In ethno-relativism, they view their culture on an equal plane to other cultures. The stages of intercultural development are presented below:

Ethnocentric stages of development:

  • Denial - people in the denial stage are disinterested in the cultures of others, and may avoid or act aggressively to the cultures of others when they impinge on their own. For instance, people may become upset when people from other cultures move into their neighborhood. In addition, they may be disinterested in differentiating between Chinese and Japanese cultures, and may instead see them as being the same.
  • Defense - individuals at this stage see their own culture as the most evolved form of civilization, or the best way of living. They are more adept at discriminating differences than people in the denial stage, but are defensive about their culture and may have many negative stereotypes about the culture of others. They may also benignly try to ‘help’ others by assimilating them into their dominant culture, even if that is not the best thing for them.
  • Minimization - In minimization, the third stage, one views elements of their culture and worldview to be universal. They assume cultural applicability of all religious, political, and philosophical concepts. For instance, one assumption is that all individuals should live in a democratic society regardless of culture. People at this stage may correct the behavior of others to match their own expectations.


Ethno-relative stages of development:

  • Acceptance - is the state in which one’s own worldview is experienced as just one of a number of equally complex world views. People at this stage are able to experience others as different from themselves, but equally human. People at this stage, however, generally do not have the ability to experience other cultures in much depth.
  • Adaptation - The fifth stage, adaptation is the state in which the experience of another culture yields perception and behavior appropriate to that culture. People at this stage can experience or empathize with other cultures.
  • Integration - in this final stage, one’s experience of self includes other world views and cultures. They develop an identity that includes elements of their own culture but also elements of other cultures as well.


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