Cultural Relativism

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Culture is a concept that must be appreciated in that it not only offers an ‘explanation’ for a group of people’s particular way of life, but also generates a general understanding that humans do not behave in a particular way due to biological instinct. Rather, they behave accordingly to the values and beliefs they were taught. There is no concrete definition for culture, in fact, anthropologists have attempted to explain and define culture, but have always encountered conflicting ideas along the way, making it impossible to come to one definition. Despite this, one of the goals, as a cultural anthropologist, is to seek to gain a more complex understanding for both the culture and the individual, and how various aspects such as the…show more content…
Anthropologists, Laura Bohannan, in “Shakespeare in the Bush”, and Seth Holmes, in Fresh Fruit, Broken Bodies, address the problems of ethnocentrism in the realm of culture, and the serious impact and misunderstandings it can create. Anthropologist, Abu-Lughod, in “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving”, explores how cultural relativism may only be useful in certain contexts, due to the fact that it is limited in certain cases where it fails to acknowledge immoral cultural values that impede on basic human rights. With the detrimental effects of ethnocentrism introduced by Holmes and Bohannan, the logical way to address these problems of misunderstanding traditions is through cultural relativism. However, Abu-Lughod argues that cultural relativism should not be the only path in gaining the best possible understanding of culture because it has its limits of overlooking unethical practices that interfere with human rights, which should not be left…show more content…
Meaning, cultural relativism helps to temporarily suspend one’s beliefs and judgements in order to accumulate a better and deeper understanding of another based off that culture’s values and norms. Furthermore, it helps to assert that cultural values are in no way the same or carry the same meaning across cultures, therefore one’s own cultural values cannot be used as a means to evaluate the behavior of another culture. However. Abu-Lughod argues that cultural relativism should not be the only way to understand another culture because it has limitations for gaining a deeper understanding for certain cultural values. In “Do Muslim Women Really Need Saving?”, Abu-Lughod addresses the misconception held in the U.S about veiling, where the burqa has become a symbol of oppression of Muslim women under the control of Taliban. Thus, this has created an incentive in the U.S of, “White men saving brown women from brown men” (Abu-Lughod 2002: 784). Abu-Lughod argues that the western world must considered that veiling for muslim women holds a deeper meaning and value. For Muslim women, veiling represents ideas such as respectability, modesty, closeness with God, sophisticated education, and much more. She concludes that, “Not only are there many forms of covering, which themselves have different meanings in the communities in which they are used, but also veiling itself must not be

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