Ethical Considerations in Anthropology and Archaeology, or Relativism and Justice for All
Journal of Anthropological Research
Salmon, Merrilee H.
Web Address (URL)
University of Chicago Press, JSTOR
Abstract: I argue that respect for other cultures and a commitment to studying them in the context of their own historical development need not prevent anthropologists from criticizing the morality of some practices of those cultures. Cultural relativism does not entail ethical relativism, and, moreover, a commitment to ethical relativism is inconsistent with the codes of ethics developed by various professional organizations of anthropologists. Two current public policy issues in which anthropologists have been involved, namely, protecting women from genital mutilation and preserving archaeological sites, reveal their commitment to ethical principles of justice that transcend individual cultures. An uncritical acceptance of the relativist view that there is no extracultural perspective from which one can make ethical judgments thus leads anthropologists into contradictions that interfere with their goal of promoting respect for others' beliefs, practices, values, and material culture.
Additional tags: ethical relativism; cultural relativism
RPA Codes & Standards
- Archaeologist's Responsibility to Colleagues, Employees, and Students
- Archaeologist's Responsibility to the Public
Keywords & Terms
- Preservation of Archaeological Resources
- Professional Standards
- Promotion of Archaeological Research/Archaeology as Scientific Discipline
- Protection and Non-Disclosure of Archaeological Sites
- Respect for and Responsibility to Affected Groups