Have you read part one? Make sure to read Body Ritual Among the Nacirema first!

Nacirema is American spelled backwards.

NACIREMAIt spells American with backwards letters.


The article about the Nacirema examines cultural behaviors, physical appearance and health. The reader soon discovers that Americans are the actual society being examined.

Who are the people and the objects in the article?

  • Notgnishaw is [George] Washington spelled backwards.
  • The medicine men are doctors.
  • The ancient code/secret language is the doctor’s handwriting on prescriptions.
  • The herbalist is the pharmacist.
  • The font is the sink.
  • The holy mouth men are the dentists.
  • The small bundle of hog hairs and certain magical powders are the toothbrushes and toothpastes.
  • The men scraping the surface of their face describes shaving.
  • The women baking their heads in the small ovens describe the beauty salon hair dryers.
  • The Latipsoh is hospital spelled backwards.
  • The magic wand in the supplicant’s mouth describes a thermometer.
  • The listener is a psychologist.

If we are to achieve a richer culture, rich in contrasting values, we must recognize the whole gamut of human potentialities, and so weave a less arbitrary social fabric, one in which each diverse human gift will find a fitting place. ~ Margaret Mead

No culture can live if it attempts to be exclusive. - Mahatma Gandhi

We Americans have a tendency to judge something that is different as inferior. When we begin reading this article, the cultural behaviors seem very different, weird and ridiculous. We are “viewing” this society from an outsider’s point of view. Upon further reading, we begin to discover the familiarity of the rituals and behaviors. We begin to realize that the society being described is, indeed, the American society. Try re-reading the article and replacing Nacirema with American. Did your perception of this primitive, uncivilized, and backward society change? Perhaps it will become more apparent to you how other cultures may view the American culture. Perhaps it will shed light on our closed-minded perceptions and judgments of other cultures.

Preservation of one's own culture does not require contempt or disrespect for other cultures. Cesar ChavezLet’s do away with ethnocentrism. We are all wearing specific lenses of our own individual cultures, so, how can we judge another’s culture by the standards of our own culture? All cultures should be viewed as equal and entitled to respect. All cultures should be valued and appreciated for their differences. We should rid ourselves of our arrogance and misinterpretation and make an effort to understand other cultures with an open mind.

  1. ralatza says:

    Body Ritual Among the Nacirema is great. One of my favorite Anthropology articles.

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