Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism
August 02, 2015
Ethnocentrism is the belief that your native culture is the most accepted or higher way of understanding the world. According to the book ethnocentrism is judging the world through the lens of one’s own culture. (kahn) This leads to making improper assumptions about others' behavior based on your own norms, values, and beliefs. For instance, any time you think of another culture's traditional food as weird or nasty, that's a product of ethnocentrism. Social scientists strive to treat cultural differences as neither inferior nor superior. That way, they can understand their research topics within the appropriate cultural context and examine their own biases and assumptions at the same time.
In the other cultural relativism is the understanding that other cultures, beliefs, and values are dependent on their cultural background, and should be treated as such. A key component of cultural relativism is the concept that nobody, not even researchers, comes from a neutral position. The way to deal with our own assumptions is not to pretend that they don't exist but rather to acknowledge them, and then use the awareness that we are not neutral to inform our conclusions. An example of cultural relativism might be such as in the Congo in the tribe Luba people eat dogs and cats where in the capital city and other tribes dogs and cats are kept in the house as pets, what seem normal to other culture might be insane to another.
The concept of cultural relativism introduced by Boas was in stark opposition to the universalistes, whose studies sought to find commonalities among cultures. Cultural relativists take the position that cultures are unique, and therefore knowledge about different cultures is almost inherently not comparable. As H.F. Stein wrote (1996), “Within this framework, the cross-cultural comparative method and any search for universals becomes morally,...