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Cultural Relativism Issues

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1. Are there any situations in which it is desirable or necessary for an anthropologist NOT to use cultural relativism? What would they be and why would it be okay?

2. What are 10 examples of how, in daily life, we employ something that had its historical origin in a culture that was not invented in the United States?

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Solution Summary

The solution discusses what cultural relativism is about from an anthropological and sociological viewpoint, when and why it is employed as well as situations when it is not necessary to view things from said perspective with examples of this situations and reasons behind doing so. The solution additionally provides an extensive list of cultural practices now done everyday in the US whose origins are from another culture other than mainstream American. These 10 daily rituals of foreign origin are now so entrenched with daily American living that they have been adapted as part of the American lifestyle. The solution is in the form of a 1,734-word APA format essay with References listed. A word version is attached for easy printing.

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Dear Student,
Hello, the solution below is concise and directly answers your questions. Being that you did not indicate your materials and current course-theorists, this solution is not course-specific but general. I am also taking some assumptions - that as a concept in anthropological practices, the definition and importance of cultural relativism is something you are now well-versed in and that what you need is just a guide to get you started in tackling this questions by example. Thank you for using Brainmass and good luck.

OTA 105878/Xenia Jones

Cultural Relativism: Events when it does not apply

In anthropology, the perspective of cultural relativism is an anchor in this field of study where cultural immersion and observation is necessary to build knowledge and details of a culture. It is a mechanism that negates subjectivity and judgement based on one's own experience and socialization as it allows for neutrality and objectivity and 'science' to happen. Personal feelings and other elements of personhood that can influence judgement within an anthropologist is battled by this perspective allowing for the 'scientist' in the anthropologist to follow ethnographic and anthropological methods without 'tainting' the results of his/her study in an attempt to study particular cultures in their own terms. There are however events when cultural relativism need not be applied. The problem for example is that in Boasian views, it is difficult to perform comparative studies in cultures for the purpose of critical social change. For example, if anthropologists do not go outside the comfort zone of cultural relativism when studying concepts of human rights and freedoms between countries, the resulting ethnography will not 'shed light' on human rights abuses within particular cultures that is 'universally unacceptable'. Take for instance the arranged marriage practices of certain African tribes practicing a sect of Islam. In Nigeria where girls and women are seen as property and domain of their fathers, some girls as young as 9 are married off by poor fathers to men as old as 80 to pay for debts. The young girls have no say, usually, in such a matter and due to the 'code of cultural relativism'; anthropologists are limited to 'write' only about such instances within their immersion. Where then is social responsibility? In Kenya and South Asia, young females are genitally circumcised, by untrained elders to 'protect' their virginity for the purpose of finding suitable mates. Such practices are very dangerous and can lead to long-term complications in the circumcised child. The World Health Organization is campaigning against such practice actively and it is the civic duty of any scientist including anthropologists to actively participate in the eradication of the practice. By ignoring it and sweeping it under the umbrella of ...

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  • MPhil/PhD (IP), Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • MA, Open University, Milton Keynes, UK
  • Certificate, Geva Ulpan (via Universita Tel Aviv)
  • BA, University of the Philippines
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