As we discuss anthropological theory we have on particular lenses that help us perceive our world around us. In order to perceive the theories and cultures we are immersing ourselves in we have to practice cultural relativism, not our standard bias of ethnocentrism. Cultural relativism can be defined as the practice of perceiving another’s culture within their through their own eyes, not your own culture’s eyes. Unlike, ethnocentrism where we perceive another’s culture through our own biased eyes which have been submerged within our own culture. When observing another’s culture like Evans-Pritchard did within when he lived with the Nuer, he had to view their lives within the practice of cultural relativism, from their viewpoint, not his own.
The previous image of evolution is how I perceive the following quote from E. E. Evans-Pritchard’s ethnographic book the Nuer.
“A man must judge his labors by the obstacles he has overcome and the hardships he has endured, and by these standards I am not ashamed of the result (9)”.
In its original context, this quote is in response to how Evans-Pritchard views his time and ultimately his understanding of the Nuer society. However, for me, I feel that this quote better relates to a possible mantra that society could follow.
In addition, when we look at images with our eyes whether or not we view the cultural objects in the cultural relativism or ethnocentric perspectives our brain analyzes and process them differently. Within Donald Hoffman’s TedTalk named Do we see reality as it is? we see states of images as our consciousness perceives them. Within our class we watched a documentary when Nuer men were making cuts on their faces, ultimately making scars on their faces. As an individual in your ethnocentric eyes you see him harming himself, you see pain and am unsure why anybody would do that. Your conscious self is confused. What you don’t see is that is a specific dynamic individualizing characteristic of the Nuer people.
Everybody on this planet comes from different backgrounds, yet we cannot begin to understand each other without looking first at where we came from and where we are going. We should all become less emerged in our own ethnocentrism and try to look at another’s culture through the practice of cultural relativism.
Evans-Pritchard, E. E. The Nuer: a Description of the Modes of Livelihood and Political Institutions of a Nilotic People. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1969.
“Cultural Evolution.” Theory Anthropology [Licensed for Non-Commercial Use Only] / Cultural Evolution, anthrotheory.pbworks.com/w/page/29531638/Cultural Evolution.