Individual identity and cultural relativism; an interview with Henrietta Moore (by Maria Arbiter)

“New kinds of technological interfaces will have in the future, an impact on our understanding of what is an individual self. So much of what we already can do with technology takes place outside the individual body… As synthetic biology moves ahead there will be other things which will be there in the world which are derivatives of us but are not within the boundary of the human body. So what it is to be biologically human is moving out into the world in ways we could not have foreseen generations before. Some people argue that it is at this moment in history when this is changing faster than ever before…”

Henrietta L. Moore is the William Wyse Chair of Social Anthropology at the University of Cambridge and Director of the Culture and Globalisation Programme at LSE’s Centre for the Study of Global Governance. Previously she was LSE Deputy Director for research and external relations and served as the Director of the Gender Institute at the LSE from 1994-1999. She has held numerous Visiting Appointments in the United States, Germany, Norway, South Africa, among other places.

Here she discusses her views on how anthropologists can best understand different cultures. What are the potential benefits and limitations of cultural relativism? How can psychoanalytic approaches enhance and enrich understanding? What is the impact of culture and technology on individual identity? Finally, how does she interpret the current moment of cultural change? Are apocalyptic narratives of ‘mcdonaldisation’, ‘starbucksisation’ and homogenization justified?