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Cultural differences are the same. No matter what the intention, it is
cultural ethnocentrism to project our standards of propriety and
acceptability onto another culture's actions/practices/behaviors.
In some cultures, "incest" is an accepted practice. It is only problematic
for people from those cultures when they encounter the moralistic
judgments of others whose beliefs are different.
One may discuss, compare, debate such differences but ultimately, if we do
not have the underlying respect for all people, we will "appropriate" our
morality as an expectation for their behavior. Transcending such judgment
may help us in all manner of interaction with people whose "culture" is
different from ours, if not also their skin tones.
On Tue, 11 Feb 1997, Terry Barrett wrote:
> Dear Graeme,
> I've been loosely following your interesting and valuable dialogue about
> multiculturalism, and the general theme I'm raising here with one example
> you may have already dealt with. If so, I apologize.
> I was troubled to read in yesterday's newspaper an AP story entitled
> Gahanaian Priests Still Taking Girls Into Slavery. According to the
> newspaper account, slavery has long been and still is a part of Ghanaian
> culture. The Ewe word trokosi refers to wife of the gods and the still
> extant practice of appeasing war gods for misdeeds of ancestors by
> sacrificing vestal virgins from every new generation. Daughters as young
> as ten are handed over to temples where they are servants until they begin
> to menstruate and then become the concubines of priests. When they reach
> middle age, the women are released, to be replaced by yet another virgin
> from the same family. The practice dates back to the 17th century and is
> also practiced in neighboring Togo, Benin, and Nigeria where it is believed
> to have originated.
> As I read the article, I couldn't escape ironic associations with the
> current discussion about celebrating pluralism. How are we art educators
> to deal with cultural differences such as this one?
> Terry Barrett
> Professor, Art Education
> 340 Hopkins Hall
> Ohio State University
> Columbus, OH 43210