ABOUT THIS BOOK
Why do American children sleep alone instead of with their parents? Why do middle-aged Western women yearn for their youth, while young wives in India look forward to being middle-aged? In these provocative essays, one of the most brilliant advocates of cultural psychology reminds us that cultural differences in mental life lie at the heart of any understanding of the human condition.
Drawing on ethnographic studies of the distinctive modes of psychological functioning in communities around the world, Richard Shweder explores ethnic and cultural differences in ideals of gender, in the life of the emotions, in conceptions of mature adulthood and the stages of life, and in moral judgments about right and wrong.
Shweder, a cultural pluralist, dares readers to broaden their own conceptions of what is good, true, beautiful, and efficient and to take a closer look at specific cultural practices--parent/child cosleeping, arranged marriage, male and female genital modifications--that we may initially find alien or disturbing. He invites us to reject both radical relativism (the view that whatever is, is okay) and imperial visions of universal progressive cultural development (for example, the idea that "the West is Best") and to engage in more deeply informed cultural critique.
The knowable world, Shweder observes, is incomplete if seen from any one point of view, incoherent if seen from all points of view at once, and empty if seen from nowhere in particular. This work strives for the "view from manywheres" in a culturally diverse yet interdependent world.
How much cultural relativism is enough? Whether you consideryourself a modernist with universalist sympathies or a post-modernist with completely pluralist preferences, you will be given pause by the arguments in this book. You will be informed, amused, infuriated, moved, and prompted to doubt deep personal convictions - often within the space of a single paragraph. No serious student of psychological anthropology or cultural psychology can ignore Shweder's commentary on the great issues confronting those fields.
-- Richard E. Nisbett, University of Michigan
Richard Shweder is the authentic voice of a concerned and critical anthropology: unbuttoned, funny, courageous, and mercilessly precise. Why Do Men Barbecue? takes no prisoners. It is a major contribution to the exposure of all forms of ethnocentrism, with special and loving attention to our own.
-- Clifford Geertz, Institute for Advanced Study
In fresh, brisk, and arresting language, Shweder challenges us to see the world in new ways or else come up with new arguments for holding on to the views we already have. This insightful and provocative book isn't just for anthropologists and other social scientists, but for those who value having to look twice at the world they think they know.
-- Martha Minow, Harvard Law School
In our globalized world there are, and will always be, many divergent views of what is real, good, and true, and how to think and feel and be a person. Rick Shweder's spirited and beautifully written essays remind us that it is not just right but necessary to recognize and understand differences in ideas and ways of life. His provocative insights give us an agenda for a cultural psychology we can really use in the turbulent years ahead.
-- Hazel Rose Markus, Stanford University
Shweder's "recipes" are lucid, timely investigations of suffering, the domestic life of Hindu women, the sleeping arrangements parents of different nationalities and classes institute with their children, and female genital mutilation--to name a few.
-- Publishers Weekly
Whether writing about the lives of Hindu women in rural India, comparing the family sleeping arrangements of different societies, or challenging feminist criticisms of female genital surgery in sub-Saharan Africa, Shweder describes the results of his ethnography of difference with elegance and wit. He avoids the dehumanizing fetishism of difference that characterizes all too much contemporary social science and social theory, and resists familiar relativist bromides demanding 'tolerance.'
-- Michele M. Moody-Adams Times Literary Supplement