The Nacirema Way

Essay by dawnsnooperCollege, UndergraduateA, November 2014

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The Nacirema Way

When I first read through the article about a cultural group known as the "Nacirema", I thought it was describing the behavior of a typical tribe. I thought the performance of strange rituals, although extreme, sounded typical of a cultural tribe, maybe they were from Africa or South America. I envisioned people of color with tribal clothing and tribal face paint. I pictured them with spears. I basically stereotyped what I thought an ethnic tribe would be. I heard the tribal music and saw the tribal dancing. I wasn't surprised about any of the tribal rituals I was reading about. Then I went back to the top to reread "Nacirema" to take a more in depth look at what was going on. I read that they were a North American group, so I began to wonder. Then I read where they were located, and thought wait a minute.

Since the locations had unfamiliar names, I just kept reading on. Then I looked deeper into the name of their tribe. It is American spelled backwards!! That was my ah-ha moment. The reading after that was awesome! Now I get it! Those barbaric rituals are the ones the American society performs every day!

I want to talk about the beliefs and values that are being expressed in the Nacirema culture. The Nacireman's main values focus on wealth and body image and the "barbaric" rituals they perform to maintain their status and appearance. The lives of the Naciremans revolve around self-image. Because their main values and beliefs are based on this principle, they engage in everyday rituals of cleansing the body for better appearance and health, and these rituals can sometimes be very costly. The holy-mouth-men represents dentists and the hog hair on a...