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Old 04-24-2006, 09:50 PM   #1
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Culture Question

Ok, my girlfriend has an interesting cultural anthropology essay question for one of her classes.
Do other cultures have the right to enforce their cultural norms on other societies?
At first glance, one might be led to answer with a simple, no; however, considering the fact that the very notion of human rights is a western cultural idea, is there an easy answer to this question?
Thoughts? Anyone have suggested reading material?
I'm asking for two reasons: 1) I'm interested in these kinds of ethical questions, 2) any suggestions would be appreciated by my girlfriend.
Thanks.
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Old 04-24-2006, 09:59 PM   #2
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I would say that cultural imperialism should be approached very cautiously. I would say that cultural imperialism is good in terms of ending "female circumcision," for instance.

But then there's the other end where I see all the global cultures destroyed by Christian missionaries. There's an example of bad cultural imperialism, I think.

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Old 04-24-2006, 09:59 PM   #3
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Is it that simple? Are we not all human beings and shall we not all be entitled to fundamental indivisible human rights?

There are many positive examples of cultural imperialism, one may consider the ending of practice of sati in India by Lord William Bentinck.
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:03 PM   #4
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If, in some cases, enforcing our culture on others is good, and bad in other cases, is there some sort of mechanism to make this determination?
Burning women when their husbands die seems wrong, intuitively, as does female genital mutilation, but who am I to tell certain Indians or Africans, that their culture is wrong? How do we make this distinction?
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:07 PM   #5
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Your the one not mutilating or mudering a human being without their consent, maybe you should just think like a modernist.
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:08 PM   #6
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Quote:
Originally posted by blueyedpoet
If, in some cases, enforcing our culture on others is good, and bad in other cases, is there some sort of mechanism to make this determination?
Burning women when their husbands die seems wrong, intuitively, as does female genital mutilation, but who am I to tell certain Indians or Africans, that their culture is wrong? How do we make this distinction?
You ask good questions. Likewise, there are moments where I wish the "civilized cultures" would have some cultural changes.

For instance, I wish someone would stop male circumcision. It's unnecessary and barbaric.

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Old 04-24-2006, 10:10 PM   #7
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Is it any more barbaric than those who mutilate themselves with piercings? The point is about electing to do it, surely the faithful could choose to perform their religious duties once they come of age.
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:12 PM   #8
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Is it any more barbaric than those who mutilate themselves with piercings? The point is about electing to do it, surely the faithful could choose to perform their religious duties once they come of age.
It is more barbaric only in that, in most circumstances, it is forced on individuals who are unable to consent.

But hey...once you're an adult, if you want to mutilate your penis or split your tongue in half, be my guest. That's the beauty of freedom.

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Old 04-24-2006, 10:41 PM   #9
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"They" say it's cleaner to have a circumcised penis. I dunno if that's really true or not. I have a feeling it just makes it easier to clean. Plus, every girl I've um, talked (yeah, talked) with has liked the circumcised penis over the uncircumcised. That, I'm sure, is a conditioned attitude though. Maybe, the reason we circumcise our children is because we all have a deep-rooted desire to be Jewish. That sounds good.
If there really aren't any physical benefits, then circumcision does sound barbaric. I had no say in what was done to my penis when I was just a baby. Where are the anti-abortionists to defend my rights as a baby?
I wish more people in our society could see how damaging our aesthetic ideal is. Toni Morrison said that establishing an aesthetic ideal is the most damaging thing a society can do.
Our culture also expects certain people to perform certain roles. My brother yesterday said something disgracefully racist, yet he didn't mean for it to be. We were watching a basketball game and he asked, "Why does (this particular player) have to be such a 'ooh, i'm a hard, gangsta, nigga,?'"
What we don't realize is, as long as we think that black people from the ghetto are going to act like "hard, gangsta, nigga" they will continue to. We all perform the roles society deals us.
Two Shakespeare quotes come to mind:
"The villainy you teach me I will execute, and it shall go hard but I will better the instruction." -Shylock in The Merchant of Venice

"The fault, dear Brutus, lies in us all." - Julius Caesar
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:52 PM   #10
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Isn't the notion of preserving a local culture the imposition of another culture?
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Old 04-24-2006, 10:53 PM   #11
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Quote:
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Isn't the notion of preserving a local culture the imposition of another culture?
Not when the local culture would remain unchanged without foreign influence.

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Old 04-24-2006, 10:57 PM   #12
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Missionaries are actually realizing that those they witness to can actually keep most of their local customs and be christians. At least, this is what Rick Warren told me.
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Old 04-24-2006, 11:05 PM   #13
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Not when the local culture would remain unchanged without foreign influence.

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And to what lengths do we go to keep out the foreign influence? Forced isolation?
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Old 04-24-2006, 11:28 PM   #14
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Originally posted by nbcrusader
And to what lengths do we go to keep out the foreign influence? Forced isolation?
It's really not that difficult of a concept. For the most part, if you don't tell or force a foreign culture to change, it won't change, even if it has outside visitors.

Considering most of these people live in commercially undesirable places, it's also not that hard to avoid them.

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Old 04-24-2006, 11:37 PM   #15
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It's interesting to note that Japan and China both realized the power of the west at roughly the same time. One tried very, very hard to resist, the other sent envoys around the western world to learn as much as possible. The latter then assimilated western notions into their own culture. They did it their way.
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