Anthropology, Ethnocentrism, and Cultural Relativism, Essay Example

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Essay

Ethnocentrism refers to considering one’s culture superior to other cultures and measuring others in terms of one’s own values and standards. Cultural relativism is the idea that outside standards should not be used to judge a particular behavior in a given society but instead the behavior should be evaluated in the context of the prevailing culture in the society. In other words, cultural relativism is an attempt to put oneself in the shoes of the society members and see things from their point of view.

Both ethnocentrism and cultural relativism prevent anthropologist from gaining an objective understanding of other cultures. Ethnocentrism results in bias against other cultures and promotes negative stereotypes. Similarly, cultural relativism results in inferior view of other cultures and may even lead the anthropologists to believe that other cultures are backward and old-fashioned.

Ethnocentrism leads to isolation in an increasingly diverse world. It discourages us from experiencing other cultures and interacting with those from different cultural backgrounds. Instead of promoting dialogue among cultures, ethnocentrism results in division and lack of tolerance for each other. Similarly, cultural relativism results in inaccurate perceptions of other cultures and we forget that some moral and ethical values are not universal but instead vary across cultures. We also become judgmental towards others and criticize others without attempting to understand their reasons or motivations. We fail to appreciate diversity and instead believe that everyone should conform to our point of views.

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