Bjorn Conrad Fry (bear@USNET.US.NET)
Thu, 5 Jan 1995 20:37:25 -0500

Happy New Year All!

Several times now, a number of us have been labeled as ethnocentric
to one degree or another, in response to contributions we have made to this
list. It would be prudent to point out here, that in each instance a
fundamental disagreement existed between the beliefs of the "labelers" and
those of the "labelees". That said, do not those of us, so labeled or
named, along with others on the list, deserve to understand what
definition/s of ethnocentrism was or were entailed? Conversely, would it
not also be important to understand what it means not to view the world
ethnocentrically? How would fundamental leanings towards relativistic and
absolutist points of view play a role? These questions are not intended to
revisit the critical need for heuristic objectivity in anthropological
investigations. They are intended to cast greater illumination on our
increasing need and responsibility to make modern Cultural Anthropology,
(and its related specialties) the invaluable contributor, to greater
sociocultural understanding, that it can be. Which group understands
sociocultural evolution and current realities, throughout the world, better
than Anthropologists?

Webster definitions:

ethnocentrism - 1) the belief in the inherent superiority of one's
own group and culture accompanied by a feeling of
contempt for other groups and cultures.
2) a tendency to view alien groups or cultures in
terms of one's own.

Well, it is true. If Anthropologists have not learned to
understand, and also correlate, the most profound elements of culture with
their related propensity for improving the quality of life for societies in
the real world, then how can meaningful assistance be forthcoming, even if
it is given only upon request? What is the Anthropologist's calling? Are
curiosity, escapism, tenure and idle musings what motivate us? Has not
enough damage been done by well meaning myopic special interest zealots
with nothing to loose? Western universities have educated many, if not
most, of the makers and shakers of the developing world over the last 50
years. To what extent did they learn that, when push comes to shove, there
are really no answers anyway? Is our record with them one that we should be
proud of? Are we on the right path?