Cultural relativism is defined as “the idea that we should seek to understand another person’s beliefs and behaviors from the perspective of their own culture and not our own

Cultural relativism is defined as “the idea that we should seek to understand another person’s beliefs and behaviors from the perspective of their own culture and not our own.” Practicing cultural relativism is important to anthropology to because is removes one’s personal beliefs and biases when viewing another culture. It also allows for a deeper understanding of another culture because it dismisses preconceived notions and helps the researcher to experience it without partiality.
Because cultural relativism is the practice of viewing other’s cultures in an impartial context, there can sometimes be disadvantages. For example, if one is too culturally relative, they risk being blind to or overlooking practices that may be immoral or unethical. Anthropologists needs to be aware of being too culturally relative because while it is important to view a culture objectively, it ignores “rights” and “wrongs” and when following it strictly, can halt arguments about morality.
In the “Mad Dogs” ethnography, Douglas Raybeck and his wife, Karen are faced with situations that test their cultural relativism. One example would be the lack of privacy that is practiced in Kelantan. While intruding in another’s home in Western society is not only rude, but punishable by law, in Kelantan it is a norm. Walking into your living space and finding members of the village lounging around for a chat is something that Raybeck and his wife had to view from the eyes of the people they were observing in order to not view it as bad-mannered.
Another time that Raybeck had his cultural relativism tested was when the four men came to steal a buffalo and were beaten mercilessly by police and other villagers. The thieves were considered to be closer to animals than to humans, suggesting that they had little human rights. During this exchange, Raybeck had to practice cultural relativism, as this reaction to the theft was custom to the Kelantanese. Observing this conflict would assist in his research.
There did not seem to be any obvious instances of ethnocentrism from Douglas Raybeck or his wife. They were both open and willing to submerge themselves in the culture while being objective and open.