Cultural relativism asserts that every culture has its own set of customs and beliefs, and that culture must be understood by the standards and values of the people within that culture. Anthropologists think that what might seem cruel or irrational in our own culture must be seen through the lens of cultural relativity, and that all cultures have practices or beliefs that can be seen by others as repugnant or incomprehensible.
After reading The Universal Declaration of Human Rights, explain whether you think cultural relativism can coexist with the idea of universal human rights. Is it possible for anthropologists to promote human rights without imposing their own values and ideas of human rights? Explain your position.
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Cultural relativism is a way of looking at other cultures objectively while understanding the culture within its own context. Fluehr-Lobban (1995) suggests that anthropologists today are critically self-examining cultural relativism, especially among those involved in universal human rights. For Fluehr-Lobban, following cultural relativism is not mutually exclusive from championing universal human rights, it does not necessarily mean that one must accept another culture’s moral system when it applies to universal human rights as described in the United Nations “Universal Declaration of Human Rights” (1949), though those who favor an extreme view of cultural relativism may argue for not judging another culture no matter what the culture’s morality on certain issues, such as infanticide, genocide, or “honor” killings in Islamic states of women charged with sexual misconduct....
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