Anthropological Theory Of Cultural Relativism

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The early 20th century marked a transition away from the 19th century unilineal evolutionary ideas and belief of primitive static cultures that dominated anthropological theory at the time (Erickson and Murphy 2013, 63). New theoretical frameworks emerged that changed the way people perceived the world around them under the influence of American, French, and British schools of thought (Erickson and Murphy 2013, 69). At this time, American cultural anthropology was starting to form as an academic discipline under the direction of Franz Boas and his students, commonly known as the Boasians. Boas initiated salvage anthropology, the process of empirically documenting culture groups before they lost their identity, and became completely assimilated to the expanding euro-American cultures (Erickson and Murphy 2013, 65). This approached shaped a prominent theory of the time, historical particularism, that was interested in cultural groups fluid histories rather than cultures being subject to a general development with European civilization being the most developed. Additionally, the concept of cultural relativism was popularized during this time period, that reiterates that beliefs, values, and practices should be understood on an individual culture basis. This theory helps move anthropological theory past the deterministic views of the 19th century. Margret Mead was a student of Franz Boas and Ruth Benedict, who highly influenced her academic career, at Columbia University in

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