Mon, 17 Jan 1994 11:25:48 CST

H. Young-Leslie's remarks I find provocative. First, I don't think we
want to say that people only practice mutilations or deformations if
they feel, or consider themselves, mutilated or deformed. Indeed, what
anthropology has to offer here is precisely the fact that we, like other
peoples, frequently mutilate or deform ourselves while refusing to
recognize it for what it is. Second, I don't think we want to lump
things such as haircutting and nail-trimming in with circumcision,
ear-piercing, or plastic surgery. With a bit of thought, mutilation and
deformation could be clearly defined and described etically; exemplified
from many cultures, including our own; and presented along with their
associated emic interpretations about how they "improve" the person on
whom they are inflicted. To borrow from my post in response to E. J.
Sobo: recognizing the cultural relativity of customs such as these
engenders cultural relativism, which in turn makes us better at
recognizing and explaining the cultural relativity of specific customs.
--Bob Graber