Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

Topics: Culture, Cultural relativism, Anthropology Pages: 3 (881 words) Published: October 29, 2012
Anthropologists face many problems in the field of studying a culture or society, and many have to do with the fact that much can be misunderstood or misinterpreted because cultures and civilizations may differ greatly. “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari” and “Shakespeare in the Bush” are two perfect examples of real life accounts of the problems that they face in the field, and it is found that in order for anthropologists to be able to truly study a certain culture, they must understand the meanings of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.

Ethnocentrism must be understood so that it can be avoided, because it is the belief in the superiority of one’s own ethnic group, which could ultimately make it very difficult to truly study and learn about a culture if you are constantly allowing yourself to believe that you are better than them; of course by “better” it is not necessarily referring to a bold arrogance or pride, but more so a hidden arrogance or pride that a lot of the time we don’t realize we even have. Naturally, people’s beliefs and ideas are shaped by their own personal experiences, what they know, and what they are told, and due to the fact that all human beings are bias (it’s something that is inevitable and cannot be denied) it makes it hard for someone to fully accept another’s beliefs, which can be completely different because they have different experiences. Now, this is fine because whether or not everyone would like to admit it, they all have at least a tiny bit of arrogance or pride for their culture, which they believe to be right because it is all that they have known (this is not referring to extreme cases of ethnocentrism such as during the Holocaust), but anthropologists need to understand this concept so that they can not only avoid it themselves, but understand why a certain culture may have the beliefs and ideas that they do.

This is where cultural relativism comes into play, because it is the view that no culture is superior to...
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