Essay Sample on Cultural Relativism

Paper Type:  Essay
Pages:  3
Wordcount:  656 Words
Date:  2021-04-01

Cultural relativism is the principle that the beliefs and activities of an individual must be understood by others regarding the culture of the individual (Robbins and Derek 26). Franz Boas established it as an axiomatic in his anthropological research in the first few years of the 20th century which was later promoted by his students. The term was first used by Alain Locke who was both a social theorist and a philosopher in the year 1924 to describe the extreme cultural relativism of Robert Lowie as evidenced in Roberts book Culture and Ethnology of 1917. However, the term became popular among anthropologists in the year 1942 after the death of Boas to harmonize the ideas that had been developed by him.

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On the other hand, cultural ethnocentrism is the process of judging another persons culture based on the values and requirements of ones culture (Kuro 38). Individuals who are ethnocentric judge others cultures and ethnic groups of their cultures, behaviors, language, customs, and religions as compared to their own. These distinctions and subdivisions concerning ethnicity serve as the definition of each ethnicitys peculiar cultural identity. Ethnocentrism may be apparent or subdued, and as many take it as a natural interest in human psychology over the years, it has developed a negative meaning.

Anthropologically and sociologically, Nacirema is a backward spallation of American used about the aspects of behavior and society of the people of the United States of America. The word Nacirema was first utilized in the social science context in which it makes fun of anthropological papers on other cultures as compared to the culture of the people of the United States of America called the Body Ritual among the Nacirema. As described by Mitchell Miner, the Nacirema are an un-detected tribe living in North America land between Canadian Cree and Arwak of the Antilles.

Their culture is mainly characterized by an advanced market economy where most people are dedicated to an economic pursuit. Some favorite aspects of their culture include the medicine men and women, a charm box, the mouth-rite ritual as well as a cultural hero referred to as the Notgnihsaw which was Washington written backward. These ritual practices dictated how people should carry themselves in the existence of sacred items. Also, these sacred conditions are the rituals used by the Nacirema in the course of their lives.

Identifying whom the Nacirema are has been hard because their place of origin is not yet known, unlike other societies who are known where they originated. Also, their culture is scanty and very hard to understand for those who are from different communities. The physical appearance of their houses and their social life went hand in hand as they had shrines inside their houses where secretive rituals were performed. In the same shrines, that where different ceremonial activities were carried out by special people who kept everything as a secret for themselves. Additionally, they had facial appearances that seemed as if they were always sad, but they could be removed by men only who performed facial scrapping services using sharp objects to their women. Also, the lack of the frequency of the face scrapping made the whole ritual look barbaric.

Miners description of the Nacirema tampers with our ability to understand these people in a large way. He portrays it as a society with very secretive cultures that none can understand. He also uses secret language and terms that people do not see in real life. An example is the mouth men who symbolized dentists and the mouth rite that stands for tooth brushing. Miner has also brought out the people of Nacirema as magic driven individuals who cannot be understood easily by small people, and this also makes it hard to comprehend how the people have made to survive by their self-imposed burdens.


Kuro Kuro: A Portrait of Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativity. Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University, Media Resources Center, 1982.

Robbins, Derek. Cultural Relativism and International Politics. , 2015. Print.

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