Another common error mistaking rare events that are

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So quit claiming that Inuit culture requires these practices! - Another common error: mistaking rare events that are so striking that they are frequently mentioned for events that are actually frequent - In the case of supposed Inuit elder abandonment or altruistic suicide: - a few cases have been generalized to imply a cultural norm - when they may have been extreme, unusual, difficult personal choices, as they would be in our culture - not cultural norms, expected, or common - Steckley’s point: - Sure, some Inuit have done these things when in dire straits - but that does not mean that they are common, much less routine and expected - they are not cultural norms - So again: quit claiming that Inuit culture requires these practices! - Another common error: exaggerating “cultural relativism” into “cultural determinism” - leaping from “this practice makes sense in their culture” (cultural relativism) - to “their culture forces them to do this” (cultural determinism) - In the case of supposed Inuit elder abandonment or altruistic suicide: - going from “altruistic suicide makes sense given the harshness of the Inuit’s environment” - to “altruistic suicide is dictated by their culture” - assumes that everyone agreed that it was a good thing to do - rather than that some individuals made a tough choice to do it - implies that the people cannot think for themselves, but blindly follow cultural rules - people usually attribute this sort of helplessness to others, - but not to members of their own culture, who obviously think problems out for themselves - Steckley’s point: - even if it does make sense in some circumstances - again: quit claiming the Inuit culture requires it! - Another common error: using post-contact events as though they represented pre-contact culture - exactly what Wolf noted and warned against in Europe and the People Without History - contact created new, dire circumstances due to disease, whaling, missionizing, changes to subsistence practices due to increasingly hunting animals for sale rather than food, etc. - THESE led to desperate behaviors - not the culture of the Inuit in itself - Steckley’s point: - even if some Inuit did do these things - quit claiming that it was due to Inuit culture!
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Anth 340.101: Living in our Globalized World F 2011 / Owen: Steckley Ch. 5 p. 3 - Why does Steckley care about these errors and the myths of elder abandonment and altruistic suicide?
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  • Fall '11
  • Owen
  • Sociology, Inuit, altruistic suicide, elder abandonment

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