Last week we examined some cultures that, at first glance, appeared to be radically different from our own American culture. Most students initially reacted to these foreign cultures with shock and disgust. After learning more about the foreign cultures, most students were able to identify some similarities between American culture and the foreign cultures we studied. However, some of the connections that students made were only “surface” level connections, they lacked depth and meaning.
In order to make a deep and meaningful connection to a specific feature of a foreign culture, you must follow the following steps:
Image 1: A common ritual amongst the Mursi, Chai and Tirma tribes (all of whom live in eastern Africa in parts of Sudan and Ethiopia). It is common for the women of these tribes to wear large wooden or pottery plates in their lips (referred to as dhebi a tugoin). When a girl turns 15 or 16 her lip is cut and a wooden plate is inserted until the wound heals. Each girl decides on her own how large she wants the plate to be. Anthropologists agree that the lip plates signify that a female is ready to marry and begin her adult life.
MODEL STUDENT RESPONSE
In what ways in the culture of the Mursi, Chai and Tirma tribes similar to American culture?
The lip plate of the Mursi tribe is similar to American culture because the Mursi wear lip plates, a form of jewelry, to signify that they are ready to be married, in the United States, American women wear engagement rings, a form of jewelry, to show that they are going to be married.
You’re the Teacher!
Image #2: The Padaung Tribe of Burma (now Myanmar) consider a long neck to be a sign of beauty. Girls receive their first neck ring when they are as young as 5 years old. As the girl ages, more rings are added (pushing the shoulders down). The longer a women’s neck appears to be, the more beautiful she is considered to be.
Directions: Read over each of the student samples below and give each student some feedback. As you read the sample you should be asking yourself the following questions (did student connect to main cultural feature, did student connect to significance of cultural feature?). Circle the student sample you think is the best and be prepared to explain why you think it is the best.
Sample A. The culture of the Paduang Tribe is similar to American culture because the Paduang women begin wearing neck rings when they are as young as five years old. In the United States, little kids start kindergarten at five years old. Five is an important age in both cultures.
Sample B. The culture of the Paduang Tribe is similar to American culture because the Paduang women begin wearing neck rings to show that they are beautiful. In the United States, people wear really nice clothes to look beautiful.
Sample C. The culture of the Paduang Tribe is similar to American culture because the Paduang women begin wearing neck rings to appear to be more beautiful. The rings push down a woman’s shoulders and make her neck look abnormally long. The Paduang women are changing their body to look pretty. In the United States, women also go to extreme lengths to look beautiful. For example, some women have plastic surgery just to look more beautiful.