At first glance, the little-known Nacirema tribe of North America seemed to be no stranger than any other remote, exotic tribe. The mountain tribes of Southeast Asia and other far-flung regions have rituals that equal, or even surpass that of the Nacirema in their mysticism and peculiarity.
The Nacirema are apparently taught from birth that "the human body is ugly" (Miner 1956, p.503) and that its natural tendencies are toward disease and decay. Their rituals are therefore designed to perpetually reverse this natural process of physical decline.
Reading through the article, I began to see familiar images. Graphic ritual descriptions aside, western society seemed to be a mirror-image of this curiously bizarre tribe. Like the Nacirema, modern cultures seem to be forever altering what nature has provided in order to fit a standard ideal. I realized that the Naciremans were not necessarily a native or aboriginal tribe in the literal sense. Miner mentions that they are from North America, living in the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles (1956, p.503). The geographical location itself seemed familiar in a strange way. Upon further inspection of clues that may be hidden in the text, I watched, amazed, as the letters of the word Nacirema moved around on the page and began to spell out a word that certainly wasn't exotic: American. I had just unveiled a long-standing myth. The mysterious Nacirema tribe was really a metaphor for western, or more specifically, American society.
2. Name 5 items or ceremonies that we have learnt to use in similar way to the Nacirema
Every ritual observed by the Nacirema has a counterpart in our world. The "shrine" (Miner 1956, p.503) in a Nacirema household, for instance, exactly describes the modern bathroom. One important component of this private room is the "font" (Miner 1956, p.504) found beneath what Miner describes as a built-in chest on the wall. These are our sinks or wash basins, as well as our medicine cabinets, in which we keep all our "magical potions" (Miner 1956, p.504)-pills and medications that often come in an astounding array. We bow down before these fonts to perform a variety of ablutions in the privacy of our bathrooms before we step out to face the world.
Doctors are, literally, medicine men. Their imposing temples are hospitals and clinics where the sick are treated, and where healthy people go for regular check-ups and, as the case may be, even cosmetic touch-ups.
Meanwhile, positioned below doctors in the medical hierarchy are the dentists-or what the Nacirema call "holy-mouth-men" (Miner 1956, p.504). Similarly, western dentists do seem to enjoy tinkering around our orifices and striking terror in us with the mere sight of their instruments. But no matter how much pain-real or imagined-is induced by this practice, we still somehow keep coming back for more.
Another similarity with the Nacirema in witchdoctor dependence, as essayed by Miner, involves another kind of practitioner-the "listener" (1956, p.506). His counterpart in our world would be the psychiatrist, to whom we go for help in exorcising demons out of our minds that we may have carried around with us from childhood.
3. How do variations in culture affect our ability to engage in worthwhile trade Explore both advantages and disadvantages.
In terms of the American market economy, there may be a disadvantage to their ...
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