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a203-11f-06-UnderstandingJudging - Introduction to Cultural...

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Introduction to Cultural Anthropology: Class 6 Understanding and judging others Copyright Bruce Owen 2011 - This class session covers a few new concepts, but much of the reading is review - Robbins pp. 2-15 reiterates some of the essential concepts we have already covered - the ideas are important, and Robbins gives them to you in a different voice, which some of you might find clearer or more convincing - but I will only comment on a few parts of this reading - Robbins reviews (and so should you): - ethnocentrism (or the ethnocentric fallacy ) - Again: ethnocentrism is the attitude or assumption that practices that differ from those of one’s own culture are misguided, ignorant, backwards, wrong, etc., without attempting to understand them - example: American tourists’ responses to vertical furrows in the Andean highlands - cultural relativism - the working assumption that people’s beliefs and actions make sense to them in their cultural context - that we get the best understanding of people, practices, and beliefs by understanding them relative to their culture - not relative to our own culture, as if that were some absolute standard - ethical relativism (sometimes called the relativistic fallacy ) - the idea that morality (right and wrong) are defined relative to each culture - that we cannot judge things to be right or wrong outside of their cultural context - as we saw before, this is an extreme position - one can be a cultural relativist without being an ethical relativist - you can strive to understand the practices of another culture without necessarily approving of them - Robbins also brings up some ethical dilemmas involved in being a cultural relativist - Should we judge the beliefs or practices of other cultures? - Should we try to change practices we feel are wrong?
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