ANTH 100: Readings - Week 1 A Concise Introduction to Cultural Anthropology CHAPTER 1 What is anthropology and why should I care The Nacirema

ANTH 100: Readings - Week 1 A Concise Introduction to...

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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
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** 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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