Ethnocentrism & Cultural Relativism Activity

  • Step 1: Read the following passage.


    A couple of years ago, Annette Sorensen, 30, an actress from Copenhagen, Denmark, and Exavier Wardlaw, 49, a movie production assistant from Brooklyn, NY, were arrested for leaving their 14-month-old daughter outside a Manhattan restaurant on a chilly day, while they ate inside the restaurant.  They left her in her baby carriage on the sidewalk.  Many passersby called 911 to alert the police.  New York authorities took the child away from her parents and temporarily placed her in foster care.

    In an ensuing article in the New York Times, one Danish commentator observed that leaving a baby outside of a restaurant is a very common practice in Denmark.  The commentator wrote, “Often, Danish parents…leave their babies outside.  For one thing, Danish baby carriages are enormous.  Babies ride high above the world on horse-carriage-size wheels.  It’s hard to get such a carriage into a café…Besides, Danish cafes are very smoky places.”  The commentator continued, “In Denmark, people have an almost religious conviction that fresh air, preferably cold air, is good for children.  All Danish babies nap outside, even in freezing weather—tucked warmly under their plump goose-down comforters…In Denmark all children own a sort of polar survival suit that they wear from October to April, and they go out every day, even in winter.”


    Step 2: In your groups:

    1. Identify how each individual group member would have responded to the situation if they you were the only one of the street who witnessed the carriage by itself.
    2. Define Ethnocentrism and where it may be present in this passage.
    3. Try to come up with an explanation for what your group believes might be the definition or idea of Cultural Relativism. Identify where this idea may be present in this passage, or where it may be implied.