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Taylor Larson (1280605) Due Tues, May 25, 2012 Section 01F w.

Chava Contreras Evol Among the Nacirema Upon my induction into Nacireman society, I instantly noticed a rampant usage of the terms evol and evolni, both of which would lose considerable, if not all, meaning if I attempted to translate them into familiar words. Evol at first seemed to describe a particular feeling a Nacireman experiences with another person, object, or even interest or hobby; soon enough, however, my field notes detailed that evol in fact described many feelings, many of which were contradictory and vague themselves, making evol the most ambiguous, nuanced, and thus evasive cultural phenomenon I would encounter among the Nacirema. Despite temptations to simply reduce evol to a richly creative language with which [the Naciremans] talk about reality, anthropological intuition told me that the extreme internal experiences of ecstasy and suffering often characterizing evol and evolni alike testified to a deeper function of evol in Nacireman society that transcended language and could not be reduced to metaphor (West 34). Indeed, with persistence, Nacireman evol discourse revealed itself to function as a system binding (albeit often temporarily and indefinitely) Naciremans in a sort of chosen or make-shift kinship system; in a nation-state where societal function has long since been largely disconnected from bloodline and kinship, Naciremans seem to have developed a means of tracking their own and others duties, loyalties, and solidarities through the mutual, yet tacit contract of evol: a contract involving emotional investment (and potentially financial in the case of marriage) existing in the invisible realm of Nacireman society that, if broken, will often leave deep and lasting emotional scars on both parties (thus further fostering Nacireman repression and resistance to speak of the contract). The outward signs the Nacrirema claimed signified evol are more than plentiful: handholding and other public displays of affection (as the Naciremans euphemistically refer to them), living in the same household, and arranging frequent dates or arrangements during

which time is put aside exclusively for the Nacirema to speak to one another, to name a few. However, when asked to put evol into words, the Nacriema could only make vague and fleeting references to their own experiences, indicating what appeared to me a both subconscious and conscious effort to contain evol within the invisible realm of the Nacireman reality; Henry West reported similar resistance amongst the Muedans in Africa when doing fieldwork on sorcery (47). Naciremans consistently resisted my inquiries about evol in their personal lives, despite the Nacirema's cultural, social, and political public preoccupation with evol in allowing the state and church to define who may enter into evol with whom. Youthful Nacireman resistance, in fact, almost always took for form of uncomfortable laughter and a hopeful insistence that my serious inquiries were nothing more than playful teasing. Nacireman elders often experienced similar discomfort, usually involving sideward glances at a significant other or, if without a spouse, a rather heavy sigh. I was tempted to come to the conclusion that evol was a term purposefully vague and contradictory, for should the term not reflect the experience it describes? Naciremans both actively and passively resisted the translation of evol from the invisible, internal realm into the visible, external, thus complicating my attempts to elucide evol among the Nacirema. In the brief statements I did gather about evol, Naciremans never failed to differentiate between having evol and being evolni with another. In his own predicament among Muedan sorcery, Henry West extolled the importance of first learning the language of sorcery (11). Likewise, I needed to learn the language of evol, a discourse which appeared to often throw complex and contradictory emotions under one umbrella to the utter bemusement of an outsider, but which were used and understood fluently by the in-group; indeed, a Nacireman can experience evol for a parent, sibling, or friend without feeling evolni with them, for evolni is nuanced by sexual attraction and desire. Although hesitant to admit it, many Naciremans likewise confessed that being evolni with someone did not always imply or lead into evol. One Nacireman struggled to describe evolni as an exercise of the imagination. When I inquired as to what the Nacirema were imagining, the responses ranged from the erotic to the idealistic; a

majority imagined a better (less alone), happier, more purposeful life based on however these adjectives manifested themselves in each Naciremans reality. Tirelessly flipping through my field notes upon my return home, I noticed a pattern or a potential (although not foolproof) means of differentiating evol and evolni among the Nacirema: evol seems to be a more enduring phenomenon that the Nacirema manifest in the concrete, visible realm and can, but does not always, penetrate the invisible realm. The Nacirema convey evol through action, whether in words of comfort or a small favor such as a late night trip to the store for some milkby caring for one another through various means in every day life. Evol characterized family and friend ties and, in the case of the latter, often sinks into the invisible, resulting in what Naciremans report as a deeper feeling of closeness between two non-related individuals that often involves, at least briefly, some sexual tension and desire. It is not, therefore, surprising that evolni is often preceded by evol. On the other hand, Naciremans birth feelings of evolni in the invisible realm and there it more than often remains (that is, within their own imagination); evolni that I observed or heard of existing in the physical and visible realm was fleeting and unstablea ticking bomb, if you will. The emotions it induces lie only on the extremes of the spectrum and place the sufferer in a drug-like high that cannot be sustained but indeed revived; in fact, falling evolni more than once in a Nacireman's life is a commonplace occurrence. It is my own suspicion that some Naciremans attempt to do it repeatedly every day. The question then follows how the Nacirema prepare themselves for evol and how they go about looking for it. The meticulous notes on this topic within my fieldwork give evidence for one sure statement to be made: a Nacireman experiences evol most often with those who are most like him or herself in appearance, opinion, world view, interests, ability/talent, intelligence, and height (intriguingly, in the case of wealth, Naciremans did not seem to mind entering into evol with those who had a considerable greater amount than themselves); Carol Delaney, an anthropologist who conducted fieldwork among the Nacirema for most of her life, observed this

trend as well, commenting, Most Naciremans want their friends to be like them, to confirm their feelings and agree with their views (74). Yet another one of my own suspicions surmised whether this phenomenon stems from the self-obsession fostered by Nacireman ritual focused on one's own body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people, as Horace Miner described in his 1956 fieldwork (The Body Ritual of the Nacirema). Naciremans perhaps, in seeking those with which they can experience evol, hold their own bodies as the initial standard by which they may judge and feel admiration for others; an implicit agreement is entered into in which neither of the two contracted Naciremans may too harshly criticize the others physique. In the event that two Naciremans decide, whether explicitly or implicitly, that they want to engage in evol, specific exchanges are often made to manifest the contract outwardly. Noted in my field notes is the trend that, as the evol contract ages, these exchanges or gifts are expected to increase in monetary as well as symbolic or emotional value, beginning perhaps with what Naciremans refer to as a yddet [a small stuffed doll resembling a bear] to a gold ring, bestowed on one another upon the social contract of marriage; Naciremans often equate and confuse the monetary and the emotional, allowing an objects monetary value to supersede its spiritual value, a characteristic first described by Marcel Mauss: in his study of similar giftgiving practices in Polynesian society, Mauss noted that to receive something is to receive a part of ones spiritual essence and hence it follows that to give something is to give a part of oneself (86). Following this logic, Naciremans undoubtedly consider their monetary worth as a part of their identities. In addition, oft times these exchanges benefit Naciremans by signaling their evol contract to others without directly stating it; to brag of evol, complain of evol, or otherwise speak of how evol are all collectively considered voodoo by the Nacirema and such speak is reserved for tsitra, a label which the Nacireman public often associates with being soft, weak, and generally undesirable (to be sure, those wishing to make a living as a tsitra find work difficult to find and decent living wages rare to come by). Indeed, the social and economic

oppression of those willing to challenge evol, let alone speak of it, proved the ultimate example of to what extent Naciremans were willing to go in order to solidify their own and others repression of evol. Upon returning from three weeks of fieldwork among the Nacirema, I promptly realized that I had only scratched a few of the countless facets of the Nacireman experience of evol. I struggled to comprehend how a concept that does not possess an even remotely close translation in my own language could play such a fundamental role within another culture and society; indeed, evol may in fact account for why Nacireman society is still largely misunderstood in ethnographic literature today. In the end, for sake of focus, I attempted to describe and understand evol in terms of its societal function and came to view it as a means of constructing ones own fluid and thus unstable kinship system (and resulting social functions and roles) in a culture no longer tied as firmly by marriage or blood; Naciremans, for better or for worse, have grounded their alternative kinship system in their own emotional investment, resulting in an visible reality as volatile and full of suffering as the invisible inward reality of evol they so adamantly attempt to repress. Nacireman life viewed through evol unquestionably attests to Miners conclusive reflection: It is hard to understand how [the Nacirema] have managed to exist so long under the burdens which they have imposed upon themselves.

Works Cited Delaney, Carol. Relatives and Relations. Investigating Culture, 2004. Mauss, Marcel. Introductory and Gifts and the Obligation to Return Gifts. The Gift, 1924. Miner, Horace. "The Body Ritual of the Nacirema." American Anthropologist (1956). West, Harry G. Ethnographic Sorcery. Chicago: University of Chicago, 2007.