RE: Why the West has 'won'.

Sarah Marr (
Mon, 04 Aug 1997 23:26:42 +0100

At 15:58 04/08/97 -0600, Mike Schnobrich wrote:

>How this fits in with what you are thinking about is I feel that there is
>really no way that we can with any confidence understand why western
>culture developed the way it did verses other cultures because we simply
>don't know anything about these other cultures. The questions that you are
>raising are also very revealing about us in the west because they force us
>to run smack dab into our western ethnocentric blind spot.

I've had debates of this kind with other anthropologists in the department
where I'm studying. There are, actually, a lot of studies anout these other
cultures, some very detailed and wide-ranging. Ethnographic study finds
itself in a double bind. If an ethnography attempts to represent another
culture through reference only to the concepts existing within that culture
itself, then the ethnography's audience (usually Western scholars) will not
be able to relate to the information presented. Hence ethnographers are
forced to produce interpretations which are, ex necessite, founded in
Western ethnocentric concepts. At the end of the day there is a delicate
balance to be struck between the as-objective-as-possible relating of the
daily occurences within a society, and the necessarily subjective and
culturally-relative interpretations and glosses (some would say cultural
'translations') placed on those occurences. (I'm currently looking at
ethnographies dealing with witchcraft, which show the differing balances
placed on these two aspects by different ethnographers.)


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