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Category Archives: Cultural Relativity

Whose Truth in BC Museums? asks that question this week. To answer it, they look at the recent experiences of three British Columbia museums: the UBC Museum of Anthropology (MOA); Haida Gwaii Museum (Skidegate); and, the Royal BC Museum. The answer? Museum of Anthropology director Anthony Shelton says: “We want to be provocative, while also being respectful.” Sphere: Related […]

Does ‘Truth’ Matter in Stories?

I continue to enjoy the conversations that erupt in the Anthopology of Religion. Yesterday, as part of a lecture on mythology, the characteristics of myth, and what anthropologists do with myths, I addressed the topic of urban legends. I have found that questions of urban legends always comes up — and decided this time around […]

‘Save the Baby Veal’ and Canada’s Seal Hunt

Thanks to a student for pointing me towards a poster showing two Inuit students cuddling a baby cow under the banner of ‘Save the Baby Veal: Avoid Cultural Prejudice.’ Created by teacher Murray Angus, the poster plays off of the attention celebrities like Brigitte Bardot and Paul McCartney bring to Canada’s seal hunt. Many Inuit […]

Skeptism in Anthropology Classrooms

If I’ve learned anything this teaching term, it’s that it is always appropriate to have conversations with students about cultural relativity, etic/emic distinctions, and insider/outsider dilemmas despite the fact that many students protest that ‘they’ve heard it all before.’ Earlier in the term I blogged about student reactions to the film Holy Ghost People. In […]

Teachable Moment in the Anthropology of Religion

I showed the film Holy Ghost People in my Anthropology of Religion class last week. The film was made in 1967 and it depicts a service in the Holiness Church in West Virginia. It in, church members are shown in trances, speaking in tongues, convlusing, and handling poisonous snakes. I use the film in a […]

Cultural Relativism

The challenges anthropologists face when adopting a stance of cultural relativism in their research were anticipated nicely in my classes this week. The discussions that followed were vigourous, with students weighing in on the impossibility of avoiding ethnocentrism altogether and the untenable position of being absolutely culturally relative. Nice work! For those interested in more […]