RITES OF PASSAGE2Death: Rites of Passage in American and Japanese Culture.“Ethnocentrism stands in fundamental conflict with the goals of anthropology: the recognition of the common humanity of all human beings and the understanding of the causes of cultural differences” (Crapo, 2013, Sec 1.4). One cause of ethnocentrism is that it easy for members of one culture to misjudge another culture based on an etic analysis of that culture. An etic analysis is the observation and information gathered from an outside perspective. An etic description of a culture is often described by an outside member of that culture based on the values and ideas of the observer’s culture. This kind of description often sounds unfamiliar to theculture in which it was meant to describe. However, using cultural relativism helps us to look at different cultures from an emic, or insider’s point of view, which allows us to better understand that culture. According to Crapo, Arnold Van Gennep was an Anthropologist that observed that all cultures have ritual ceremonies that represent the transition into the different stages of life of its members. These events are known as rites of passages. Rites of passages are important to the stages it represents and can also be used to show the values and religious beliefs of the members that participate in them, and the culture in which they are a part of. (Crapo, 2014). Within this paper I will give an etic description of rites of passage, surrounding old age and death from my own American culture. By doing so I will show one how easy it is to misunderstand the purpose of a cultures customs. I will also give an emic description of Japanese rites of passage, also surrounding old age and death. As a result one will have a better understanding of the value of cultural relativism.
RITE OF PASSAGE 2 Introduction The etic and emic approaches in anthropology are the two primary forms of research that help anthropologists study cultures from an outsiders and observers’ perspective, respectively. The emic approach examines the level at which individuals would think of the cultures around them. Emic anthropologists play the “insider” when following a community to learn various aspects of their culture. Contrarily, the etic approach concentrates on the researcher’s culture studied from an outsider’s perspective. Both concepts are all part of the relativist ideology that individuals would best understand the practices and beliefs of various cultures by assuming an insider’s approach. In this paper, I will explore individualism, an important value in the American culture, as outsider to gain additional insight into the motivations behind the value. I will then contract this value with the Japanese cultural views of death, dying, and the afterlife. Ultimately, I intend to prove that what Americans perceive as normal would be impracticable some global cultures, for instance, the Japanese. In addition, while the Japanese approach to dying, death and the afterlife may seem abnormal to outsiders, it remains an interesting and relatively acceptable practice from an insider’s perspective. Part 1 The United States scores highly for its approach to and presence of cultural diversity. It comprises of numerous cultures and subcultures that account for a complex spectrum of values and elements. Amidst this complexity is a variety of elements and stereotypes that would hold as statistically true for every American. One of these elements is individualism, a value that cuts across almost all American cultures. Particularly, every member of this society is individualistic through their emphasis and encouragement of self-reliance as well as individual achievement.