Diversity: Cultural Sensitivity
Est. Time: 50 Minutes
The contents of this case study were developed under a grant from the U.S. Department of Education, #H325F060003. However, those contents
do not necessarily represent the policy of the U.S. Department of Education, and you should not assume endorsement by the Federal Government.
Project Officer, Shedeh Hajghassemali.
http://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu 121314 n1
THE
IRIS
CENTER
Activity 
Objective
To enhance cultural sensitivity and increase awareness of how individuals and their culture can
be misunderstood.
Overview
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?
Diversity: Cultural Sensitivity
Est. Time: 50 Minutes
http://iris.peabody.vanderbilt.edu 121314 n2
THE
IRIS
CENTER
Activities 
Questions/Discussion Topics [Cont.]
4. What does Nacirema spell backward?
5. Describe everyday events such as shaving, ear piercing, and brushing teeth so that they do
not sound like “primitive” customs.

Testimonials

Sensitivity