August 6, 2013
The Strange Insight that Comes from Putting Modern Life Under a Microscope

In 1956, anthropologist Horace Miner published a well-researched account of the Nacirema, a strange people who occupy “the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles.” Miner was struck by how far the Nacirema go in honoring what their tribe considers sacred. “The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease,” he wrote.
Each Nacirema family has a shrine devoted to bodily upkeep, and each shrine houses “many charms and magical potions without which no native believes he could live.” The Nacirema, Miner noted, are also particularly concerned with their mouths, “the condition of which is believed to have a supernatural influence on all social relationships.” But the key to understanding the Nacirema, in all of their strangeness, is to read their name backwards: They’re American.
In his book Very Recent History, The Awl co-founder Choire Sicha files a follow-up report on these peculiar people.
Read more. [Image: Paulo Barcellos Jr.]

The Strange Insight that Comes from Putting Modern Life Under a Microscope

In 1956, anthropologist Horace Miner published a well-researched account of the Nacirema, a strange people who occupy “the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles.” Miner was struck by how far the Nacirema go in honoring what their tribe considers sacred. “The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease,” he wrote.

Each Nacirema family has a shrine devoted to bodily upkeep, and each shrine houses “many charms and magical potions without which no native believes he could live.” The Nacirema, Miner noted, are also particularly concerned with their mouths, “the condition of which is believed to have a supernatural influence on all social relationships.” But the key to understanding the Nacirema, in all of their strangeness, is to read their name backwards: They’re American.

In his book Very Recent History, The Awl co-founder Choire Sicha files a follow-up report on these peculiar people.

Read more. [Image: Paulo Barcellos Jr.]

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  13. happyhappydonut said: I remember a similar story about the Naidanac people when I was in elementary school in the 1970s.
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