Ethnic Studies 3.1.1 Understanding Culture as an insider and outsider: the Nacirema

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Who’s the insider or outsider in a culture? How do we figure that out in a diverse society? Cultural awareness involves the ability of standing back from ourselves and becoming aware of our cultural values, beliefs and perceptions. Why do we do things in that way? How do we see the world? Why do we react in that particular way? When we have to interact with people from other cultures, people see, interpret and evaluate things in a different ways. What is considered an appropriate behavior in one culture is frequently inappropriate in another one.

 Misunderstandings arise when I use my meanings to make sense of your reality.
Misinterpretations occur primarily when we lack awareness of our own behavioral rules and project them on others. In absence of better knowledge we tend to assume, instead of finding out what a behavior means to the person involved, e.g. a straight look into your face is regarded as disrespectful in Japan.
In this lesson we look at how our cultural values, beliefs and perceptions shape our attitudes and behaviors towards others outside of our culture.

Nacirema Questions
Directions:  After reading and completing the Cornell Notes for The Body Ritual and The Mysterious Fall of theNacirema (attached documents), use the Cornell Notes to help you answer the following questions. Answer using complete sentences!

What culture do you most identify with, common culture ofyour nation (The United States) or your ethnicity (Japanese, Mexican, Jewish,Hawaiian, etc.)
Does knowing about another culture and how they operate helpyou understand your culture better? Include how it helps you and why it helps you. Use one example from each of the readings tosupport your answer.
In comparing cultures, are there truly distinct differencesbetween cultures? Explain your answerusing at least one example from each reading.
What are some behaviors or attitudes that are reflected inthe Nacirema culture? Use two examplesfrom each reading to answer this question.
In what ways are the Nacirema similar to your culture? Tothe common culture of the United States? Use at least two examples from the reading compared to two examples fromyour culture and two from U.S. culture.
In what ways are the Nacirema different from yourculture? To the common culture of theUnited States? Use at least two examplesfrom the reading compared to two examples from your culture and two from theU.S. culture.
Is understanding what culture is and how it shows itself ina society important? Why? How is it or is it not helpful? Explain using at least two examples.

Attached Files
 Cornell Notes Template.rtf (1.882 MB)
 The_Mysterious_Fall_of_the_Nacirema.pdf (44.27 KB)

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