Week 1: A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology CHAPTER 1: What is anthropology and why should I care? The Nacirema: Anthropologists have become so familiar with the diversity of ways different peoples behave in similar situations that they are not surprised at very exoic customs → magical beliefs and practices of the Nacirema present unusual aspects that is seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes in which human behavior can go ● N.American group living in territory between the Canadian Cree (little is known of origin and tradition states they came from the east) ● Characterized as highly developed market economy and spend a considerable portion of the day in ritual activities ○ Main focus: human body, appearance and health is a dominant concern of the ethos → fundamental belief underlying is that the human body is ugly and there is a natural tendency for disease and debility → they avert these tendencies via ritual, ceremonies, and each household has shrines devoted to this purpose ● Secret and can only be discussed with children only when they are being initiated into the mystery Focal point: box/chest built into the wall in which charms and magical potions no native believes in which he can live without and beneath is a small fountain → each day every member of the family enters the shrine room, bows head to box, and mingles different types of holy water in the fountain, and brief rite of purification **holy water is secured from the Water Temple of the community and priests conduct elaborate ceremonies to make the water pure ● Fascination with the mouth and the condition of which is believed to have a supernatural influence of all social relationships ○ Perform a complex set of rituals devoted to the mouth and if not they believe their teeth would fall out, gums bleed, jaws shrink, friends desert them etc. ● People seek out a holy-mouth-man once/twice a year (impressive paraphernalia) and use objects to perform an exorcism of the evils of the mouth and ritual of torture ○ Tools to scrape and cut sensitive areas of the mouth
** look at pgs 2-3 talks about the basics of American culture and the practices about idolization → essay that draws into two themes of anthropology: our quest to gain knowledge, to understand people who are vastly different from ourselves, and desire to know ourselves and our own culture better ● You are drawn to the details of the exotic customs and practices and then are comforted by the scientific writing style of the essay ○ Then realize that he is describing american customs as a point of view of an unknowing but perhaps perspective of an observer Critical questions and desires at the heart of anthropology
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