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RE: [xmca] Taking culture into account/Doing harm?

Hi Greg,
We seem to be going down the rabbit hole here.  I guess I'll end by saying I think settled science (broadly defined) and human rights should play at least some role in most decisions.  In some cases it may be best to dispense with these, but only after first examining them.  I think maybe this is one of the reasons Vygotsky stresses the importance of scientific concepts while still maintaining the role of everyday concepts in our lives is because he saw both as playing important roles.  I think one of his more interesting ideas is that you needed schools for scientific concepts, perhaps because the main goal of many cultures is to recreate themselves over generations.  Science can certainly be dangerous to tradtions, and through it we lose the illusion of stability.  A lot of people don't like this very much (see Global warming)  Every person should have access to different types of information, but this can be destabilizing for cultures, so there can be a tension.  I don't know if this is what Vygotsky meant, but this is how I see him right now.  Sometimes culture wills out, sometimes science and human rights wills out, but it should always be an open contest.  To give primacy to culture strikes me as an inherently conservative position.  And as my students pointed out about the Haidt book, it is very often the person privileged by culture who takes that position - which makes sense when you think about it.
The question I am struggling with, and what has caused me to go back and read cultural psychology readings with a new eye, is what does all this mean in the information age.  What happens when the thirteen year old girl goes online and decided she wants to remain intact, or two, or three.  Who decides then?  And who protect the decision makers?


From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Greg Thompson
Sent: Mon 7/23/2012 3:20 PM
To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
Subject: Re: [xmca] Taking culture into account/Doing harm?

sorry, didn't catch what the "it" (male circumcision?) was in the phrase
"giving my parents a pass on it".

RE: male circumcision, there is lots and lots and lots of debate:
I just pulled this up:
but there is lots more debate out there, and a strong suggestion that it is
much more than "cosmetic." (and are you suggesting that "cosmetic" surgery
is an okay thing for doctors to practice).

And if you read Fuambai's article, there is also debate about how serious
female circumcision is (and Rick Shweder has often suggested that even a
nick on the clitoris might be able to count as an effective practice of

But the question isn't about male and female circumcision. The question is:
who gets to decide what is right and good and true when it comes to
people's (whether a child's or adult's) lives?

Do you really want to leave those decisions up to the doctors?
I don't.


On Mon, Jul 23, 2012 at 11:30 AM, Michael Glassman <MGlassman@ehe.osu.edu>wrote:

> Hi Gregg,
> One more thing,  to tell you the truth I wouldn't be so thrilled with a
> bunch of academics giving my parents a pass on it because it was their
> cultural belief systems.  How about you?
> Michael
> ________________________________
> From: xmca-bounces@weber.ucsd.edu on behalf of Michael Glassman
> Sent: Mon 7/23/2012 2:27 PM
> To: eXtended Mind, Culture, Activity
> Subject: RE: [xmca] Taking culture into account/Doing harm?
> Greg,
> Obviously there are different levels of decision making.  Male
> circumcision is basically cosmetic surgery while female circumcision (and
> perhaps it shouldn't be called that) has lifelong implications.  I don't
> think it is a good comparison.  If male circumcision had the same lifelong
> implications I would say no, and be phenomenally angry at my parents - and
> believe they did not have the right in any way to do what they did, I am
> sure of that.  So why would you think many females wouldn't feel the same
> way.  I think it is always better to make decisions based on as much
> knowledge of people as possible rather than on opaque systems.
> Michael
> mca@weber.ucsd.e <mailto:xmca@weber.ucsd.e>
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Gregory A. Thompson, Ph.D.
Sanford I. Berman Post-Doctoral Scholar
Laboratory of Comparative Human Cognition
Department of Communication
University of California, San Diego
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