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Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

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Frank McCormick

on 6 October 2016

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Transcript of Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism
Cultural Relativism
Cultural Relativism:
Asks that we evaluate other cultures by their standards, not ours.
Should we always be relative?
Absolute vs. Critical Cultural Relativism
The tendency to evaluate the customs of other groups according to one's own cultural standards.
Culture Shock Test:
What is "normal" behavior?

Men wearing makeup
Guys having a beer
Men holding hands
Yanomamo Ash Eating
Indonesia: The Walking Dead
"We rarely recognize culture's powerful impact on our thoughts and behavior until we encounter a culture that takes a radically different approach to reality."
Culture Shock
: Feelings of confusion and disorientation that occur when a person encounters a very different culture.
Daily Prompt: What do you think the quote below means?
What does culture shock look like?
Writing Response:
Write about a time when you experienced culture shock. Where did it occur? What was it like? What about the other culture surprised you?
The Yanomamo tribe of Venezuela and Brazil forbids in preserving or keeping any parts of their deceased. Instead, the body is cremated and the ashes, which includes crushed bones, are given to the family to be eaten. And, yup, that’s about it.
This is for real! Funerals can be both pricey and intricate ceremonies and in Torajah the afterlife is an important part of their religious beliefs. When families can’t afford an initial proper burial, a body is placed in a temporary coffin. When funding is in order, the corpse is literally RAISED FROM THE DEAD and “walks” to it’s new resting place.
For each behavior you observe, log your reaction to the behavior in the form of bullet points:
"That's disgusting"
"That looks like fun, I wish we did that"
"They're a primitive people... How could they do that?"
"I think that's pretty normal"
"What is wrong with them?!"
Were you culturally relative or ethnocentric?
And Now... Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
Be careful about judging another culture by your own culture's standards.
Who is most successful?
Were you being ethnocentric?
Judging success from your cultural standard?
Could success mean different things to different cultures?
It's hard to be relative, especially when you are confronted with cultural practices that are very different than your own!
Such as this religious ritual that is practiced by some Shi'a Muslims on Muharram.
Shocking? To us, yes. But to be culturally relative we would have to say, "That is their way of practicing their faith and we cannot judge it by our standards."
Sometimes, we must take off our "cultural glasses" and consider that maybe we have practices that are just as bizarre to these people.
"But that's so weird. WE do nothing as crazy as that in our culture!"
Really? Let's see what some Mexican-Catholics do on Good Friday in Oaxaca...
We also like to put holes in our ears...
And stars on our... faces?
The Relativist Fallacy
viewing all cultural practices as being equally valid and worthy of respect.
Offers an alternative view that poses questions about cultural practices and ideas in terms of who accepts them and why, and who they might be harming or helping

the perspective that says a person from one culture should not question the rightness or wrongness of behavior or ideas in other cultures because that would be ethnocentric

Evaluating a cultural practice:
Bride Kidnapping in Kyrgyzstan
Viewing Assignment
During the film, take notes centered on the following questions:

What function does "bride kidnapping" serve in Kyrgyz culture?
Is there any pain or trauma associated with the practice?

Now, evaluate the function of bride kidnapping and any possible pain or trauma associated with the practice, I want you to reflect on how you think it should be approached by outsiders and answer the following questions (for homework):

1. Does this practice serve a legitimate function in Kyrgyz society? What is that function?

2. Should the practice of bride kidnapping be condemned and discouraged by Westerners? Why or why not?

3. Do you think you are taking an ethnocentric approach to this practice or a culturally relative approach? Or do you feel that this is an issue that must be approached from an entirely different perspective? Explain your reasoning.
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