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Cultural Relativism Vs Ethnocentrism Essay, Research Paper

Cultural Relativism VS Ethnocentrism

Sexuality, in the Western World, has been a taboo for hundreds of years (essentially from the time of the Roman Empire), however, it has always been openly discussed and practiced in other parts of the world. A cultural relativist would look at different cultures and their habits and practices, and he would not judge them as being wrong. Instead s/he would study the reasoning behind these “strange”/unique actions and evaluate why and how this works for this specific culture. For example, on the far islands of Fiji, a mother would calm her infant down by performing a version of oral sex or stroking his penis. Although this is not commonly practiced in our culture, a cultural relativist would not judge whether this is right or wrong, s/he would assess the success rate of the desired effect and mark this practice as yet another difference between the many people of our planet.

An ethnocentrism, on the other hand, does not believe that there are any unique cultures or societies. S/he preaches that only his/her culture is the correct one and even the slightest deviation from that is wrong. Therefor a western ethnocentrist would mark that mother on the Fiji island as being “sick” and as “corrupting her child”. This ethnocentrist would refer back to his/her culture (Judeo-Christian) and illustrate why this practice is morally wrong and socially unacceptable.

Cultural Relativists are open-minded people who do not judge others’ habits and rituals, but rather look at each culture as unique and as a source of knowledge and/or wisdom. Ethnocentrists believe that their culture and society is the best and the only “correct” culture and society. Ethnocentrism does not think of other societies as unique, but rather as “wrong”.


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