Re: Relevance and Nothingness -Reply

Fri, 9 Feb 1996 15:30:54 -0700

Re. FGM, relativism, and human rights: With
apologies to Melville Herskovitz, I'm of the opinion
that cultural relativism is best understood as a
methodological tool for helping us understand the
meanings and functions of customs--including
FGM--and not as a necessary ethical stance that
must govern us in all aspects of our lives.
Understanding is a central goal in our professional
commitments, but we delude ourselves or deny our
full humanity when we pretend that that our
involvement in our professional domain is the
extent of our human identities. In addition to being
an anthropologists, we are also members of
society. When I became an anthropologist, nothing
on my diploma said that I lost the political rights
that other citizens have or that I was now immune
from taking a position on ethical and moral
dilemmas outside my professional organization.
Life does not consist of understanding alone. It
also consists of living and participating in the
human drama. As a citizen of my country and of the
world, I find it as appropriate for me to speak out
against FGM and to espouse a broader vision of
human rights and dignity than is currently
supported by many of the worlds nations. I see no
conflict between my professional use of cultural
relativism for the purpose of intellectually analyzing
customs and the fact that I have values as an
individual or that I act upon them in the public
Richley Crapo

>>> Adrienne Dearmas wrote:
Actually, I would be interested to know how many
anthropologists are aware of this practice and of
those that know about it, what is your perspective
on it? Cultural relativism, human rights issue,
political issue, do we have the right to interfere with
cultural traditions, and how do people feel about its
prevalence in immigrant communities in the US?
The chapter I am writing on this for my book will
include everything possible to give a balanced,
non-judgemental overview of the literature
available and the issues at stake.
Unfortunately, there is not as much anthropological
attention to this topic as I would like to see. Anyone
interested? I promise not to flame or call anyone

- Adrienne DeArmas