Culture and Frog Legs
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5 What is your opinion about eating toasted ants, about eating fried frog legs, about eating puppies and kittens? About eating raw monkey brains? If you were reared in U.S. society, more than likely you think eating frog legs is okay; eating ants is disgusting, and eating dogs, cats, and monkey brains is downright repugnant. How would you apply the concepts of ethnocentrism and cultural relativism to your perception of these customs? Using your textbook and additional resources, write a two – three page paper addressing the issues of cultural diversity and diet. Be certain to use all three major sociological theories – functionalism, conflict theory, and interactionism – in your analysis as well as the terms ethnocentrism and cultural relativism.
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* The thought of eating toasted ants, fried frog legs, monkey’s brains, puppies and kittens is disturbing in the culture that I am used to. However, it is justifiably in many cultures out there; therefore in that case, my opinion is indeed relative. Cultural relativism is the view that individual beliefs and values systems are culturally relative.
That is, no one ethnic group has the right to say that their particular system of beliefs and values is in any way better than anyone else’s system of beliefs and values. What may be right for one culture might be wrong for another. There is no absolute standard of right and wrong by which to compare and contrast morally conflicting cultural values. We cannot possibly understand the actions of other groups including their eating habits if we analyze them in terms of our own motives, and values. We must interpret their behavior in the light of their motives, and values if we are to understand the (Hunt, 2004).
The theory of cultural relativism can be used to explain why the functionalist theory is applied to certain societies; the activities that they perform are done so because they are regarded as important and necessary according to different values of each society. If we combine these two ideas, we are able to see that both the functionalist and cultural relativist theories centered around the fact that the people of societies perform their activities and behave in the ways that they do because these actions and thoughts correspond and are considered to be right and acceptable in terms of the values of the society (Hunt 2004). Functionalism or the Functionalist Theory is a system used by cultures which concentrates on and emphasizes the functional interactions of cultures and societies, i.e why and how certain rituals, daily chores etc. are performed within societies. It makes generalizations which are employed to explain and predict social phenomena. I can say people generally eat what they have eaten since a child, what everyone else eats around them. Americans are used to raising cats and dogs as domestic animals, stepping on ants, and frying frog’s legs. Things are different in different countries and habits will dictate over taste. Ethnocentrism involves judging other cultures against the standards of one’s own culture. Norms within a culture frequently translate into what is considered “normal,” so that people think their own way of doing things is “natural.”
These same people also judge other people’s ways of doing things as “unnatural.” In other words, they forget that what may be considered normal in America is not necessarily so in another part of the world. A potentially problematic form of ethnocentrism is nationalism, or an overly enthusiastic identification with a particular nation. Nationalism often includes the notion that a particular nation has a God-given or historical claim to superiority. Such nationalism, for instance, was a special problem in World War II Nazi Germany. Sociologists strive to avoid ethnocentric judgments. Instead, they generally embrace cultural relativism, or the perspective that a culture should be sociologically evaluated according to its own standards, and not those of any other culture. Thus, sociologists point out that there really are no good or bad cultures. And they are better able to understand the standards of other cultures because they do not assume their own is somehow better.