Ethnocentrism and Cultural Relativism

Consider the article “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.” This is an intentionally deceptive article intended to increase awareness of how an ethnocentric perspective can influence our perception of cultural groups whose values and practices appear to contrast so much from our own. Nacirema is American spelled backwards. Horace Miner, the author, purposefully fools his reader into believing that he is describing an “exotic” and “primitive” society (perhaps a Native American tribal culture?) in order to demonstrate how any given culture’s practices or values, filtered through our perception, can appear absurd or even crazy. However, as much of the content you have so far reviewed explains, cultures do not exist on a scale that ranges from most to least advanced, rather, each culture contains its own complex and sophisticated system of operation and way of life.

With your new knowledge of the meaning behind this article, refer to it now and think about which bizarre practices described in “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” are common American practices. Now, taking into account the relevant readings, documentaries, and other media content provided thus far in our course, explain how anthropologists strive to fairly represent the people they study (consider concepts such as the emic and etic perspectives described in “Doing Fieldwork”).

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1.) Do you think taking one’s own biases into account (reflexivity) produces more accurate analyses and portrayals of different cultural groups?

2.) Is it important or helpful to give those studied an active voice in the research process?

3.) Would you say that the anthropologist is in a position of power over the people he/she studies?

4.) If so, how can the anthropologist maintain an ethical and balanced relationship with the people he/she studies?

These are open-ended questions that allow you to share your thoughts and opinions on these subjects. However, you must support your perspective with specific intext citations and references to the textbook and other course content.

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