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I think that Shweder is much more concerned about his own culture than we are generally giving him credit for within the classroom discussion. A lot of the blog posts I have read so far have referenced the idea that being aware of other peoples differences and unique cultures is a good in and of it’s self. To a greater extent, that Shweder is pointing out cultural differences so that we can appreciate that everyone has differences and we need to accept the fact. I propose that Shweder is not so much concerned with multiculturalism as he is with the progression of his own culture. I think that Shweder would be quick to acknowledge that many of the cultures he analyzes have been stagnated for generations and that as often as you learn something from another culture that enhances your own, you learn of something that has major setbacks. I think that Shweder is much less concerned with various cultures learning to live together in harmony than he is with the progression of the culture he has the greatest influence over in order to increase it’s overall survivability.

The link I have posted below is from a radio program called Radiolab. Just click and press play, it’s not short but it’s about de-centering and its entertaining.


Written by gerardhf

February 2, 2011 at 2:36 am

Posted in Uncategorized

10 Responses

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  1. I really enjoyed your theory. I think you definately have a good point. I think that it is possible that Shweder includes other cultures to subtly enhance his own. I think it is very likely that he is more concerned with his own culture, as are most people. I think he has a very scholarly way of doing so.


    February 2, 2011 at 3:19 am

  2. […] noticed that posting is a precondition to being in the roundup, Gerard steps up with the provocative suggestion that “Shweder is much less concerned with various cultures […]

  3. If I understand correctly, you are saying that Shweder stands back, offers up examples of other cultures, and does, in fact, judge and compare them to his (our) own in order to gleen what is progressive for our survival and what is not.
    As usual, a tempting idea that really begs the question, “can we ever not judge others?” I’m interested in where you got this vibe in the book.


    February 9, 2011 at 6:10 pm

    • Well in both the case with sleeping arrangements and FGM Shweder identified that the cultural practices were essentially healthy and harmonious for the community. If the case had been that FGM was that it was a sick game of torture or that women felt degraded or reduced by the practice, Shweder would almost certainly have said that is a bad thing. One of his main points is that cultural practices that are bad/unhealthy/or that cause disharmony would not allow a culture to remain intact. His purpose in tackling these issues has a great deal to do with the various culture wars in the United States and other places that cause social discord.


      February 10, 2011 at 7:08 pm

  4. Absolutely, I had a similar vibe but didn’t really know how to vocalize it. I think more than anything he is saying, “Cant we all just get along?” I think he is more telling us to decenter our-selfs and let things and people be the way they are. But im almost surprised since this is such a conservative argument for a left-moderate academic.


    February 9, 2011 at 8:06 pm

    • If by Conservative you mean classically liberal or libertarian I think we see elements of that in his writing. But if Shweder is spending so much time creating a definition for what is morally acceptable, then it is likely that his purpose in doing so is to ultimately identify those things that are not morally acceptable. Assuming that he comes around to that point in this book, I think we’ll find him willing to make strong criticisms of cultural practices where necessary. So, conservative? In a live and let live sense, but that is almost by definition liberalism.


      February 10, 2011 at 7:03 pm

    • Hey Diz, what makes you think he’s a left-moderate academic?


      February 20, 2011 at 8:51 pm

  5. I never really thought of it that way about Shweder’s using comparison to show flaws in another culture, or his attempt to show his cultural beliefs are better. I think that is a good point. What is he really trying to do?
    I do believe that his book is beneficial in making others aware of many cultural differences; also I have an idea of what you are saying. For example, with FGM he gives the cited information either condemning the practice, or celebrating the practice and giving us the choice to decide what we want to do with the information. Giving us the opportunity to investigate the information further and pick a side; which may be against the action of FGM because of our culture believes.
    Shweder don’t actually express disapproval of any action himself, but he does put the act out there in your face. Once this is done he remarks on the “yuck response” that many people may have. This “yuck” idea he writes about almost have me thinking, yes this is so wrong, no matter what the people involved in FGM think. With my cultural belief I can’t believe that is a necessary practices, but then I also feel that I have no right to judge.
    I do (I think) get what you saying, but my idea (naïve perhaps) of the book is that it is informative, which has some facts, and other points of view for and against.
    In an attempt to understand the possible hidden concept of the book I went back to the introduction. Now I am back to thinking that the book is merely informative.


    February 12, 2011 at 1:44 pm

  6. Realisticjay,

    I see the point you’re making in saying that this is merely an informative book. Building on that, I think it is informative with the purpose of trying to build a judgmental audience. I believe Shweder is trying to take topics that a typical audience for this type of book doesn’t usually address and help them to call into question their feelings. As others have said, I do think Shweder does a fine job to keep himself removed from the text most of the time. ( I even at times have a hard time picking out where he is, as the author, in the text.)


    February 22, 2011 at 7:05 pm

  7. i agree with Gerard on this one. the term “scarcity” is to Economics as the term “Stability” is to the field of political science. Im not so sure that anyone REALLY cares about all the unique tribes and cultures arround the world. However, when it matters is when they start killing eachother and effecting us via trade. The most current example would obviously be Liyba. People can argue that we are trying to protect human rights but i believe that if Liyba did not contribute Oil to the global market we would be more than happy to look at it like an injured puppy like we do Darfur and similar places.


    March 23, 2011 at 7:29 pm

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