In Response to Dr. Guido Gianasso’s Post “Emma Raducanu and the Illusion of Nations”

Dr. Guido Gianasso, Professor of Leadership at HEC Paris in Qatar, wrote a post on LinkedIn titled “Emma Raducanu and the Illusion of Nations.” In it he notes that the up-and-coming tennis star Emma Raducanu has a Rumanian father, a Chinese mother, was born in Canada, and lived in the UK. As a result, Emma has fans from Romania, China, Canada, and the UK. His conclusion is as follows: “At a time when many countries and going back to very ethnocentric models and policies, Emma is the best evidence that National identities are fading and we must embrace a geocentric mindset. Emma Raducanu is the future of mankind.”

As a professor, I see lots of things that are written by fellow professors, and typically delivered with great authority, accompanied by references, citations, and a list of letters behind the authors name, and of course including a host of jargon and buzzwords. Sometimes these writing are logical and sometimes they make no sense at all. In Dr. Gianasso’s case, his posting makes no sense at all. Let’s deconstruct it.

First, he says many countries are going back to very ethnocentric models and policies. To understand this statement, you must define “ethnocentric.” A Google search will come up with many definitions but the one on Wikipedia probably works. It says, “Ethnocentrism in social science and anthropology—as well as in colloquial English discourse—means to apply one’s own culture or ethnicity as a frame of reference to judge other cultures, practices, behaviors, beliefs, and people, instead of using the standards of the particular culture involved.” The definition follows with this statement “In common usage, it can also simply mean any culturally biased judgment.”

Then he says, “based on Emma, we must embrace a geocentric mindset.” What is the geocentric mindset? Well after searching extensively on Google I discovered that the definition of geocentric is not quite so easy to come by. From an historical perspective geocentric meant that the Earth was the center of the universe. Well, we know that’s not true. However, from a social science perspective, the best definition I could find was “Geocentric attitude, a world-oriented view that focuses on using the best approaches and people from around the globe. Managers with this type of attitude have a global view and look for the best approaches and people, regardless of origin.” A lot of the information on geocentric relates to managing multinational firms.

Without stating it, the inference of Dr. Gianasso is clear. Being ethnocentric, or applying one’s own methods, practices, and standards in comparison to those of others, is somehow bad, while being geocentric, or using the best methods, practices, and standards from around the globe, is good. But I think his inference goes even further. Remember the title of his post included the phrase “the Illusion of Nations.” For that to be part of his title, he must hold the belief that nations are not real, or shouldn’t be, and therefore people who believe in nations, or develop policy that is nation-centric, are somehow wrong. So, if we don’t have nations, what is the alternative? The alternative is a world order where nations do not exist.

But what is a nation? A nation is a large body of people united by common descent, history, culture, or language, inhabiting a particular country or territory. Nations are the natural order of things, because we do have, and have had since the dawn of recorded history, large groups of people united by common descent, history culture or language. And why is it that people who belong to one nation, having rules or laws that are centric to that nation, is somehow bad? In the state of Montana, you must be 21 to get into a bar and order a drink. Just north of Montana, in the province of Alberta, Canada, the drinking age is 18. So, are the Albertans and the Montanans being ethnocentric? Should they both have the same drinking age? If they should, how would you determine which is correct without comparing the two methods? Or is the correct approach to just take an average, or maybe a weighted average based on population?

The reality is that “nations” or groups of people united by descent, history, culture of language, adopt laws, rules, customers, and methods that suit the people in those groups. So, either you have laws, rules, customs, and methods that are tailored to nations (as in the case of Alberta and Montana) or you have rules that apply to everyone across all nations. But that solution seems foolish because one group of people united by descent, history, culture, and language might not want the same rules as another group of people united by descent, history, culture, and language (as apparently the people in Alberta and Montana have decided). And if those groups don’t decide which laws, rules, customs, and methods they want, then who does decide? Some universal world government telling each nation what to do? I don’t even want my own government telling me what to do, never mind someone halfway around the globe.

Further, Dr. Gianasso points out that because Emma has ties to Romania, China, Canada, and the UK, and thus has fans from these four countries, that this is somehow geocentric. But it isn’t. The fans in each of those countries are being very ethnocentric. They are supporting Emma due to a common heritage. Just because people in two countries can be fans of the same person does not make their fanship geocentric. Their fanship is still ethnocentric because it is based on their national ties to Emma.

Finally, what Dr. Gianasso is really describing is not ethnocentricity. It is the United States of America. In the US we are very used to people having varied backgrounds and cultures. I have a friend who is of Puerto Rican and German heritage who grew up in Hawaii. I have a friend who is of German and Peruvian heritage who grew up in Los Angeles. My children are of European, Canadian, and Filipino ancestry and they grew up in the United States. I have a friend who is Korean and African heritage who grew up in Texas. Guess what? They are all Dodger fans!

Someone might look at the people I have just described and applaud diversity. Yes, all these people are from diverse backgrounds. But they are not diverse, they are unified. They all believe in the fundamentals of freedom and liberty built into the American system. Dr, Gianasso would probably say that is ethnocentric. If it is, I’ll take ethnocentricity any day of the week.