One could make a reasoned argument that some feature

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one could make a reasoned argument that some feature of one’s own culture was better than a feature of a different culture - traditional Hindus used to insist that widows should be burned on the funeral pyre of their dead husbands - we might oppose that, based on a full understanding of the practice and a reasonable difference of opinion - our opposition would only be ethnocentric if - it was based just on an automatic, uninformed judgment that what “they” do is wrong simply because it is different from what we do - that is, based not on - understanding and argument - but rather on - an assumption that whatever we do is normal and right, so anything that differs is abnormal and wrong - starts from the assumption that people who do things differently from one’s own culture do so because they are ignorant, backward, stupid, slaves to outdated customs, etc. - you won’t learn anything from another culture if you assume everything different about it is misguided and wrong - again, more on this in future classes - cultural relativism - contrasts with ethnocentrism - view that cultures and practices are best understood in their own context, in their own terms, from the point of view of the people of that culture and the circumstances they are in - this is an intellectual tool or method - intended to help with understanding other cultures - by not pre-judging, but instead suspending judgment of cultures and practices in order to allow us to understand them in their own context - starts from the assumption that people do things for reasons that make sense to them - seeks to understand what those reasons are, and why they make sense - ethical relativism - an even more extreme extension of cultural relativism - view that right and wrong are relative to each culture - one cannot judge ethics from outside of a culture - note that this is NOT required for cultural relativism - a cultural relativist does not have to be an ethical relativist - many, if not most, anthropologists are NOT ethical relativists
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Intro to Cultural Anthro 203.1 F 2011 / Owen: What is Anthropology? p. 6 - a cultural relativist can suspend judgment sufficiently to understand a culture or a practice in its own context, yet still find that it is morally wrong - Guests of the Sheik background - set in 1956-1958, mostly the year 1957 - Iraq had been controlled by the British after the end of WW I - Iraq became independent in 1932 - the Fernea’s visit was just before a revolution in 1958, in which - the feudal system of landed sheiks was largely dismantled - and land was redistributed from the large landholders into many more small farms - this was the first of a series of revolutions and violent power struggles that eventually led to President Saddam Hussein - El Nahra: mostly Shia, or Shi’ite Muslims - the smaller of the two main divisions of Islam - Sunni and Shi’ite - “Islam”: the religion - “Muslim”: a person who believes in Islam - Spelling details - today the preferred spelling is “Muslim”, not “Moslem” - “Moslem” is associated with British imperialism and foreign misunderstanding of Islam, so some Muslims find it offensive -
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