Authors:Marko Pisev (Belgrade Faculty of Philosophy)
Miloš Milenković (University of Belgrade - Faculty of Philosophy)
Paper short abstract:
In our paper, we recover the debate on alleged moral vacuum lying in the background of cultural relativism (as a research strategy), arguing that social scientists do not need to emphasize their ethical positions while conducting research in order to obtain ethically responsible scientific results.
Paper long abstract:
In a number of liberal multicultural democracies in Europe a relatively new brand of a "traditional" enmity is being created in the public sphere. This enmity derives its inspiration from a long-lasting Christianity VS. Islam stereotype, and recently it became articulated by a "Football fans against Radical Islam", or "Hooligans against Salafists" type of credo. As far as this problematic seems obvious and self-evident, it nevertheless poses a serious question to anthropology: namely, is it socially and morally responsible to observe such highly problematic social realities from a standpoint of value-neutral, as-objective-as-it-can-get social science? In other words, is a non-biased, relativist methodological approach to "hooligan" or "Salafist" phenomena in any given European society ethically justifiable, even if we privately, as social actors, may think scornfully of such issues? Cultural relativism as a practical rule (which advises us to withhold all our value judgments, at least until we conclude our ethnographic research) opens, we argue, analytical space for symmetrical exploration of socially controversial issues from the viewpoint of our informants, be they "hooligans", "Salafists", or some third party. Originally imagined as methodological procedure which enables theorists to bypass ethnocentric loyalties in anthropology, cultural relativism should be able to deal with ethnocentric and white supremacist spectre of ideas in the same neutral, impartial manner as it deals with puritan Islam and Muslim militant groups. This request for symmetry does not imply advocacy of any kind but a return to high standards of scientific endeavor cultural relativism initially expected of itself, as well as of its theory practitioners.
Engaged anthropology: Reality? Necessity? Utopia?