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Cultural Diversity: Different Worlds; Same Stories America is a vast, multicultural land, with many different people and many different ways. But still, we tend to categorize whether something is abnormal or not based on certain cultural standards, i. e. , “ethnocentrism”. This makes for a large gap in understanding cultures such as that of the Trobrian, a unique tribe living on the island of Kiriwiai. One might be surprised to find that while our two cultures have differences, we also share similarities.
We both enjoy our own language, celebrations, religion, politics, etc..
We do, however, go about these customs and social observances in a very different manner. A trait that exists in all cultures in sociology is referred to as a “cultural universal”. There are many examples of cultural universals throughout the world. For example, all cultures have some form of government. However, while Americans are ruled via a democratic republic based on 3 branches of their government, the Trobrian people are governed based on a paramount chief system.
The two cultures both have a system of politics, but they also have a different way of going about it.
This difference illustrates what is known as “cultural particulars”. Cultural relativism is the principle that an individual human’s beliefs and activities should be understood in terms of his or her own culture. The reason for cultural relativism is because of the lack of understanding of cultural particulars. The people of Trobrian are very different from Americans. Their money is in skirts and banana leaves.
They roam around half-naked. Their inheritance goes through their mother, and they celebrate things such as harvests and funerals (This celebration is called a “sigalli”).
But the most interesting thing about the Trobrian people is that their power is based on what they can give, not what they can take. Americans would think upon hearing this, that they are an extremely un-advanced, savage people. But that is far from the truth. They recently have adapted fundamentalism and are beginning to question their money source, showing possibilities for advancement. As an American, I feel that it would be unsatisfactory to live with a people such as with the Trobrians, but that is only because of the way I grew up and my own culture.
In some ways it makes them stronger; in some ways it makes them weaker. But we should never look down on another people because of the way their culture molded them. We should all have open minds and respect for diversity. People can judge very quickly, but it takes time to understand how a culture truly operates. Ethnocentrism, cultural universals, cultural particulars, and cultural relativism are all basically just fancy ways of saying we are alike in some ways, we are not alike in others, and that we should not judge others based on our own cultural norms.
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