In class last week, the WaiWai culture and how people feel the need to modernize their culture through information technology reminded me of the concept of cultural relativism. Cultural relativism is the idea that one should understand different cultures on their own terms, and that you should not impose your preconceived notions and perceptions. This then reminded me of story I had read called Body Ritual Among the Nacirema by Horace Miner. Most, if not all, anthropology students have read this story, or at least heard about the Nacirema. For those of you who haven’t, it’s an article written by Miner about rituals done by this culture of people. As you keep reading, you start to realize that the Nacirema is in fact American spelled backwards. The story is a description of American culture through the eyes of a person who has had no prior experience with American culture.
I would imagine the description that Miner wrote about the Nacirema would sound very similar to a description that someone would write about a group of people with a lifestyle completely different from the western ideal. It’s important to not glamorize cultures that are not our own. From an outsider’s perspective, like from the person describing the Nacirema, it is important to not exoticise other cultures, as one person’s normal, is another person’s strange.
This then reminded me of the Adventures of Mark and Olly in chapter 9 of Human No More. Their show is trying to find a group of people that are untouched by the rest of the world. On one hand, it may seem like a great discovery to find a new culture of people. However, on the other hand, wouldn’t you be disrupting their whole idea of being untouched by the outside world if you make contact with them? In addition to that, the producers of the show have a specific ideal of how they want people in this culture to be portrayed. So would the show be showcasing the culture of these people, or the producer’s idea of what their culture should look like? Many television shows and media outlets are portraying groups of people as how society sees them. It’s interesting to see how the media portrayal is different from how they really are.