Cultural Relativism In The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down

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Cultural relativism, based of Chapter 14 of Haviland et al., can be defined as disregarding ones ignorance in order to accept another’s culture long enough to come to an educated understanding of their culture. It became fundamental for anthropologist to use this method when studying other cultures in order to overcome their ethnocentrism and obtain a better grasp of understanding. In order to evade ethnocentrism and, the extreme, nonchalant acceptance of cultures - Walter Goldschmidt, U.S. anthropologist, devised a question; “How well does a given culture satisfy the physical and psychological needs of those whose behavior it guides”? (Haviland 324). With the understanding of cultural relativism and this question posed, it provided me with a new outlook on my past reaction to certain cultural practices.
In past ignorance I have succumbed to the human tendency of passing judgement without understanding the significance of their culture. For example, Indians known as the Yanomami,
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Fadiman was capable of spewing facts and telling the tale of the Lees without any sign of ethnocentrism towards the Hmong’s. However, she did fail to exercise that same practice to American culture in chapter 1 page 6 last paragraph. This may have been Fadiman intention to mimic the feelings of Foua during her delivery, however that paragraph does exhibit ethnocentrism. The American health care delivery system is being looked down in this paragraph and that’s evident by the word choice. For example, “steel table”, or “she was placed in a steel and Plexi-glass warmer, where a nurse fastened a plastic identification band around her wrist and recorded her footprints by inking the soles” (Fadimand pg.6) using such words made Lia seemed less of a human child and more of a part of an assembly line creating some new