Relativism and Ethical Judgement

Mon, 2 May 1994 11:14:10 CDT

R. Scupin gives female genital mutilation in Africa as an example of a
"horrific" custom on which anthropologists should pass moral judgment.
Does he feel the same about the genital mutilation of male babies,
without anasthesia, in our own society? I confess that I personally
disapprove of both practices. But I also disapprove of, e.g.,
professors commiserating with students about the teaching methods of
colleagues. Actually, I disapprove of many things, but I do not think
of this as a characteristic of me in my role as an anthropologist. Ray,
would you trust a missionary's account of a "horrific" custom as much as
an anthropologist's? If not, wouldn't the difference be at least partly
attributable to the assumption that the anthropologist tried to
control--ideally, even suspend--judgmental thoughts, and feelings of
revulsion? --Bob Graber