Teachers can be better equipped to support culturally and linguistically diverse students

Teachers can be better equipped to support culturally and linguistically diverse students with
disabilities and their families if they have a good understanding of how culture affects the
perceptions of others. This activity will show how easy it is to have negative perceptions of
customs that seem foreign.
Activity
Read the scenario below.
In a 1956 edition of American Anthropologist, an article by Horace Miner, “Body Ritual Among
the Nacirema,” describes the “magical beliefs and practices” of a tribe supposedly observed by
Miner in great detail and expresses concern about several of the group’s slightly masochistic
tendencies. Some of the Nacirema customs include scraping and lacerating the face or legs
with a sharp instrument, piercing the skin with sharp instruments and then taking great care
to keep those holes from closing again, painting of the body, and inserting and ritualistically
moving a bundle of hog hairs in the mouth several times a day. The people of this tribe seek
the assistance of medicine men many times during the course of a year to treat physical
ailments, release them from the power of devils that have lodged in their heads, and gouge
holes in their teeth. (This last is done in the hopes of avoiding oral decay and offending one’s
friends). The Nacirema gather in large numbers to watch clans within the tribe enact small
battles, often with many physical injuries, and to observe individual tribal members fight to
unconsciousness.
Questions/Discussion Topics

  1. Where do you think the Nacirema live?
  2. List at least ten adjectives to describe this tribe’s customs. How many were positive?
    Negative?
  3. If you were a teacher, how would you deal with Nacirema children in your classroom who
    insisted on maintaining their tribal customs?

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