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1.6: Cultural Relativism

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    5568
  • [ "article:topic", "authorname:lumen" ]

    The Cross-Cultural Relationship is the idea that people from different cultures can have relationships that acknowledge, respect and begin to understand each others diverse lives. People with different backgrounds can help each other see possibilities that they never thought were there because of limitations, or cultural proscriptions, posed by their own traditions. Traditional practices in certain cultures can restrict opportunity because they are “wrong” according to one specific culture. Becoming aware of these new possibilities will ultimately change the people that are exposed to the new ideas. This cross-cultural relationship provides hope that new opportunities will be discovered but at the same time it is threatening. The threat is that once the relationship occurs, one can no longer claim that any single culture is the absolute truth.

    Cultural relativism is the ability to understand a culture on its own terms and not to make judgments using the standards of one’s own culture. The goal of this is promote understanding of cultural practices that are not typically part of one’s own culture. Using the perspective of cultural relativism leads to the view that no one culture is superior than another culture when compared to systems of morality, law, politics, etc. [11] It is a concept that cultural norms and values derive their meaning within a specific social context. This is also based on the idea that there is no absolute standard of good or evil, therefore every decision and judgment of what is right and wrong is individually decided in each society. The concept of cultural relativism also means that any opinion on ethics is subject to the perspective of each person within their particular culture. Overall, there is no right or wrong ethical system. In a holistic understanding of the term cultural relativism, it tries to promote the understanding of cultural practices that are unfamiliar to other cultures such as eating insects, genocides or genital cutting.

    There are two different categories of cultural relativismAbsolute: Everything that happens within a culture must and should not be questioned by outsiders. The extreme example of absolute cultural relativism would be the Nazi party’s point of view justifying the Holocaust.

    Critical: Creates questions about cultural practices in terms of who is accepting them and why. Critical cultural relativism also recognizes power relationships.

    Absolute cultural relativism is displayed in many cultures, especially Africa, that practice female genital cutting. This procedure refers to the partial or total removal of the external female genitalia or any other trauma to the female reproductive/genital organs. By allowing this procedure to happen, females are considered women and then are able to be married. FGC is practiced mainly because of culture, religion and tradition. Outside cultures such as the United States look down upon FGC, but are unable to stop this practice from happening because it is protected by its culture.

    Figure \(\PageIndex{1}\) - A Chinese woman with her feet unbound

    A Chinese Golden Lily Foot by Lai Afong, c1870s

    Figure \(\PageIndex{2}\) - A Chinese Golden Lily Foot by Lai Afong, c1870s

    Cultural relativism can be seen with the Chinese culture and their process of feet binding. Foot binding was to stop the growth of the foot and make them smaller. The process often began between four and seven years old. A ten foot bandage would be wrapped around the foot forcing the toes to go under the foot. It caused the big toe to be closer to the heel causing the foot to bow.[4]In China, small feet were seen as beautiful and a symbol of status. The women wanted their feet to be “three-inch golden lotuses”三寸金蓮[3] It was also the only way to marry into money. Because men only wanted women with small feet, even after this practice was banned in 1912, women still continued to do it. To Western cultures the idea of feet binding might seems torturous, but for the Chinese culture it was a symbol of beauty that has been ingrained the culture for hundreds of years. The idea of beauty differs from culture to culture.

    References

    1. “African People & Culture – Ashanti”.
    2. “Japanese Hip Hop and the Globalization of Popular Culture” Ian Condry
    3. Southern California Quarterly “Cinco de Mayo’s First Seventy-Five Years in Alta California: From Spontaneous Behavior to Sedimented Memory, 1862 to 1937” Spring 2007 (see American observation of Cinco de Mayo started in California) accessed Oct 30, 2007
    4. “Health and Human Rights”, World Health Organization http://www.who.int/hhr/HHRETH_activities.pdf (pdf) Accessed June 2009
    5. “Discussion Group 10 Week 2- Marisa Mikelsons”
    6. Condry, Ian, 2001 “Japanese Hip-Hop and the Globalization of Popular Culture.” In Urban Life: Readings in the Anthropology of the City. George Gmelch and Walter Zenner, eds. Prospect Heights, IL: Waveland Press.
    7. Democracy in Dakar, Nomadic Wax, 2008
    8. http://courses.wwu.edu/webapps/porta...82_1&frame=top
    9. Barton Wright Cruz Bay Publishing, Inc. http://www.collectorsguide.com/fa/fa040.shtml
    10. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 2009.pg.79.
    11. Philosophy Home, 2009. http://www.cultural-relativism.com/
    12. Zmago Šmitek and Božidar Jezernik, “The anthropological tradition in Slovenia.” In: Han F. Vermeulen and Arturo Alvarez Roldán, eds. Fieldwork and Footnotes: Studies in the History of European Anthropology. 1995.
    13. American Anthropological Association Statement on “Race”(May 17, 1998) http://www.aaanet.org/stmts/racepp.htm
    1. Peter L. Berger, Invitation to Sociology: A Humanistic Perspective, Anchor, 1963, ISBN 0385065299
    2. C. Wright Mills, The Sociological Imagination, Oxford University Press, 1961, ISBN 0195133730
    3. Louisa Lim, Painful Memories for China’s Footbinding Survivors http://www.npr.org/templates/story/s...toryId=8966942
    4. James A. Crites Chinese Foot Binding, http://www.angelfire.com/ca/beekeeper/foot.html
    5. http://www.allaboutphilosophy.org/cu...relativism.htm
    6. Justin Marozzi, The son of the Father of History, 2007, http://www.telegraph.co.uk/culture/b...f-History.html
    7. Introduction to The Journey of Friar John of Pian de Carpine to the Court of Kuyuk Khan, 1245-1247, as translated by William Woodville Rockhill, 1900,http://depts.washington.edu/silkroad...s/carpini.html
    8. Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology A Perspective on the Human Condition. 7th ed. New York: Oxford UP.
    9. “RACE – The Power of an Illusion . What Is Race |.” PBS. 08 Mar. 2009 <http://www.pbs.org/race/001_WhatIsRa...01_00-home.htm>.
    10. Miller, Barabra. Cultural Anthropology. 4th ed. Boston: Pearson Education Inc., 2007.
    11. Lorber, Judith. “Night to His Day”: The Social Construction of Gender.” From Inquiry to Academic Writing: A text and Reader. Boston: Bedford/St. Martin’s, 2008. 617-30.
    12. Bourgois, Philippe. “Workaday World, Crack Economy.” The Nation (1995): 706-11.

    External Links

    • What is Anthropology? – Information from the American Anthropological Association
    • SLA– Society for Linguistic Anthropology
    1. ^ Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 2009. pg.79.
    2. ^ Schultz, Emily A., and Robert H. Lavenda. Cultural Anthropology : A Perspective on the Human Condition. New York: Oxford UP, Incorporated, 2009. pgs. 332-333