Cultural Relativism

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Week 1 Anthropology Forum – Cultural Relativism

Question: Using your textbook, please define cultural relativism and moral relativism, using APA formatting for your citations as needed. How is cultural relativism different from moral relativism? For example, consider anthropologists who study genocide or another oppressive, harmful phenomenon of your choice. Objectives examined: * Describe what is meant by ethnocentrism and cultural relativism * Interpret the ethical issues faced by anthropologists as they study other cultures and the material remains of early civilizations

According to Parks (2008), cultural relativism is “studying another culture from its point of view without imposing our own cultural values” (p. 17). Moral relativism is, I believe, to be the study of another culture where you impose what you believe to be morally acceptable. It is more or less a study where you compare and/or contrast what is acceptable according to the culture being studied to what is acceptable according to your own culture. Cultural relativism is different from moral relativism in that with cultural relativism you have to approach the study, and the culture being studied, with a completely open mind and put aside all biases and your own beliefs as to how things should be. This is necessary in order to convey the complete truth about that culture from a neutral, unbiased, third-party position. As Parks stated, “...we are obliged as scientists to assume that the behaviors of others fit somehow into their cultural systems, that is, are acceptable relative to their cultural beliefs” (p. 17). If the anthropologist that is conducting the study does not approach the people being studied in this manner, he/she risks introducing new ideas, beliefs, or technologies that could dramatically change that culture permanently. When we approach a new culture with the idea that somehow our own culture is superior to the other, this is called ethnocentrism. Ethnocentrism is the...
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