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certainly anthropological research has become less culturally insensitive and supremacist since mead's day, but i still feel compelled to point out indigenous peoples' lifeskills are usually much more ecologically appropriate than the first world's, and they usually respect the earth as a living organism, on whose mercy and grace they humbly depend.

I don't think anthropology is quite as bad as that, although I was an anthro grad student so I'm a tad biased.

A lot of work, including a lot of work from a long time ago, pointed out just what you said about ecological appropriateness and whatnot.  A lot of VERY early work was devoted to proving that people in other cultures are just as intelligent as Western people, that biological racism was full of bunk, and that culture rather dramatically shapes how people think about and relate to each other and to the world.

"Aren't these people and their culture just so great and amazing" has long been a more common sentiment, and nearly as problematic a sentiment, as "Look at what these bizarre savages are doing!"

But the fact is that it's really, really hard to really study and think about cultures different from one's own, no matter where they are.  There have been major arguments about this from the beginning of the discipline, and there still are today.  One of the founding principles of American Boasian Anthropology was Cultural Relativism, but even that is horribly problematic - but if even extreme cultural relativism is somehow inappropriate, then what the heck are we supposed to think?  Nobody knows.

by Zwackus on Mon Jul 9th, 2007 at 07:14:20 PM EST
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