Living Off-Grid and Cultural Relativism

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Since discussing Franz Boas and his creation of the idea of cultural relativism I have been thinking of what I could relate cultural relativism to that was modern. I decided to use it in relation to an activity or belief that is sometimes subject to stereotypical generalization. Many things came to mind but I decided to go with off-grid living. This is a practice that seems to be becoming more and more popular. The picture above shows a driveway that is part of a semi-off-grid property. There are a large variety of reasons that some people choose to live a life off of the grid.

Just to name a few, there are those who live off-grid for environmental reasons. They might want to take steps to reduce their carbon footprint by using independent energy sources like solar or wind and maybe grown their own food in a sustainable way. Another person might live exactly the same way except for worries of global economic or governmental collapse. There are also people who believe a zombie apocalypse may be coming, and try to prepare for it by living off the grid. Spirituality is another reason people might live off-grid to help them connect with nature. Others might live off-grid because they were raised in that type of environment and continue to live that way.

I have heard of a question people who live off-grid are sometimes asked: are you gun toting or granola? Granola apparently means an environmentalist who lives off-grid. This question is obviously not open-ended and very limited as to the reasons why someone would live off-grid. But whether living off-gird for reasons of environmental sustainability, economic worries, governmental insecurity, zombie apocalypse, spirituality, or many other reasons, lacking a culturally relative mindset can lead to quite inaccurate, stereotypical conclusions.

Andreas

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3 thoughts on “Living Off-Grid and Cultural Relativism

  1. To be clear, you are saying that living off-grid is just another form that some may use to stereotype? I am trying to figure out why living differently, as in off-grid, would lead to stereotypes given by others. It this kind of like how some people may say “city fokes just don’t get it” or “their family is back woods hill-billy”? Because if this is close to what you are saying then I can see why where a person may live gives them a stereotype.

  2. I feel like this would be less cultural relativism and more a Weberian perspective where the individuals stated motive for a practice becomes crucial in understanding. Though to use that method you would still have to be someone culturally relativistic to understand something within its own cultural context. Off-grid living and normally country living, or city life are all housing practices practiced within the same larger American culture or western culture. It seems you have to be culturally relativistic within your own culture. (I also felt it would be helpful if this better explained off-grid living for those that are unfamiliar and the many varieties such as those that choose to be homeless as another alternative form of off-grid living.) Your stress of the importance of understanding the individuals stated motive for this lifestyle is more Weberian than Boasian and that would be my key point. I really liked this blog post as I have tried to understand the motives for alternative lifestyles like this as well and understand how the same practice can have such a different meaning to different individuals.

  3. I do agree that it is important to use a culturally relativistic view when analyzing these individual cultures. Or in this case, subculture. It is interesting to see that this could be considered an antithesis to the thesis of modern living. It could also be considered that the modern environmentalist viewpoint could be the synthesis of these two ideas.

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