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Chris Stewart
4/28/14
Cultures of the World
Reflection Paper
Culture forms identity. Without identity, people lose sight of who
they are and what they represent. In losing sight of what a person is,
purpose in life becomes non-existent. Therefore, having a sense of
cultural relativism in mind is incredibly important when learning and
observing other cultures. For if we were to place judgment on
someones cultural beliefs, we would in essence make an attack on
someone elses identity. In merely looking at three different articles,
Body Ritual among the Nacirema, Shakespeare in the Bush, and
Just Another Job?: The Commodification of Domestic Labor, we can
see how easily it is to become ethnocentric.
In Body Ritual among the Nacirema, there is what seems to be
a reporting on some weird culture and what they do in their day-to-day
life. What ends up being the case is that the article really talks about
American culture. What tricks people in believing that it is another
culture is the way that the culture is described. In saying how we go to
the hospital and describing it as the medicine man we are instantly
making judgments and thinking that this is a backwards culture. The
point of this article to make people realize that its not only important to
learn about other cultures, but learn about them in a bias free, or at
least as bias free as possible, manner that allows us to truly
understand one another peacefully and appreciate others for who they

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are. In making judgments such as these, we cut ourselves out of
learning and understanding others that we may end up actually truly
liking. The basis for cultural relativism is this openness and acceptance
of the world.
Working in virtually the opposite sense, the article, Shakespeare
in the Bush deals with the same issue but from the other side. An
anthropologist goes over seas to study other cultures and starts
becoming friendly with the local tribe. They ask the anthropologist to
tell a story of her people and entertain them. So she tries to seize
the opportunity to explain Hamlet to them and settle a score with her
peers that other cultures can truly appreciate Shakespeare. What the
anthropologist has to deal with is the incessant ethnocentrism from the
tribesmen saying how the story is wrong based on their cultural beliefs.
The frustration from such an argument is shown quite clearly from the
article. However, what the anthropologist then tried to tell the story
using their cultural beliefs in order for them to understand it. This
shows that it is not enough to go around and understand others, but it
also takes patience in explaining your own culture to others and it
helps to place it in a cultural context appropriate to them. In
accomplishing both, it establishes a respectful environment in which all
parties feel welcomed and understood.
The results of not establishing this respectful environment can be
extremely damaging as shown in the article, Just Another Job?: The

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Commodification of Domestic Labor. This article explains in detail the
exploitation of undocumented workers in the maid industry. This abuse
of cultural power causes the domestic workers to feel less than human
and they are downright degraded. Cultural relativism can help here in
opening up conversation and understanding what truly is going on in
the world. The employers, if were open to cultural relativism, would
realize that they do not need to do half the things they make their
employees do; no matter how much they were being paid.
In essence, the word cultural relativism is more than just
accepting other people for their cultural beliefs. It is a sense of respect
for one another that people are afraid to have. Cultural relativism
creates dialogue and opportunity for all people to be heard. It is not
about giving up power and your own identity for the sake of another
but merely allowing others the same opportunities that you do in life.