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Horace Miner’s Body Ritual Among the Nacirema Essay


Horace Miner’s point throughout the entire article of “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” was to prove to us, Americans, that we are not superior to anyone else or any other culture, society, or religion. We are all the same, and we just to need to keep in the back of our minds that everyone does everything differently. Whether it is a dramatic difference, or barely noticeable, each person does everything different from the next person. Throughout this essay willbe examples on how Miner’s article went to prove how ethnocentric Americans through the use of sociological imagination.


Anthropologist, Horace Miner, wrote an article on a tribe called the Nacirema, who originated from Between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles. This specific tribe is so superficial, and focuses so much time on their bodily appearance. The people of this tribe go through many daily rituals to stay healthy, clean, and as perfect as possible. This tribe that is spoken of is the American. Nacirema is American spelled backwards. Throughout the article, Miner, strived to prove how ethnocentric we, Americans, are through sociological imagination.

Reading the article without knowing it is about Americans will put a person in the point of view of an outsider from a different culture. We think the tribe, Nacirema, thinks that the human body is ugly and its natural leaning to weakness and disease is an awful thing, and that their only hope to avoid these characteristic of the human body, is to keep up with their daily rituals. Americans are always trying to come up with new ideas to prevent natural aging, the deterioration, and weakness of the body. We feel so ashamed of our supposed weak bodies that the rituals performed in our families’ shrines (bathrooms) are kept completely private and should not be shared with anyone. Just because of our shamefulness, we have already proven that we are not a perfect people.

Americans can alter their appearances in simple, almost no effort ways. “…Professor Linton referred in discussing a distinctive part of the daily body ritual which is only performed by men. This part of the rite includes scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument.” (Miner Paragraph 12) This ritual described the process of men shaving their face with a razor and along with the ritual is a possibility of cutting the face. “Special women’s rites are performed only four times during each lunar month, but what they lack in frequency is made up in barbarity. As part of this ceremony, women bake their head in small ovens for about an hour.” (Miner Paragraph 12) This ceremony is talking about women going to get their hair done to improve their looks. The small ovens are old fashioned hair dryers, which would dry their hair into the style that woman wanted it to be. Another ritual that the Nacirema people go through is to find a holy-mouth man (dentist).

The holy-mouth man pokes and prods at the client’s teeth, and it is not always a pleasant experience. The holy-mouth man likes performing uncomfortable and slightly painful rituals on the client’s teeth. The client allows for the holy-mouth man to whatever he or she likes with their teeth. The man ritual of shaving, woman ritual of getting their hair done, and going to see a holy-mouth man at least once a year all have sadistic and masochistic qualities. The specialists that complete these services like seeing their client uncomfortable and in pain on some level.

The people of the Nacirema tribe continue to return these specialists and continue the rituals, proving that in some sort of way that they must like being uncomfortable and in pain. People of the Nacirema tribe can also physically change their appearance by having a special medicine man alter parts of the body. Mainly the women of the tribe are the ones who see the specialist. These specialists can make a woman’s breasts larger or smaller if needed. Other surgery, besides on the breasts, can be performed, such as the face, stomach, and arms.

To view all these rituals that have been aforementioned, from an outsider’s point of view can make the American people look barbaric, weird, and not natural. The people of the American culture are so wrapped up in self-image that it is almost sickening to look at it from another view point. The people will go to almost any length to look better and stay looking young that they will go through many painful and uncomfortable rituals. Talking about sexual intercourse is a not something to talk about openly, especially in public. To avoid pregnancy “the use of magical materials or by limiting intercourse to the certain phases of the moon.” (Miner Paragraph 19)

Birth control is taken to avoid becoming pregnant, and when women do become pregnant they wear loose clothing as to hide the fact that there are carrying a child. Other cultures see intercourse as a natural thing to reproduce, and that pregnancy is a beautiful thing. They see us not talking and being open about sex as taboo. We, Americans, are not superior to anyone else. That is what Horace Miner wanted to get across to all of us. He wanted us to think outside of the box. We need not to look at other cultures as strange, but just as different and unique because the other cultures look at us and think we are the weird ones.

http://jihunkmla.blogspot.com/2013/05/review-on-nacirema-colored-glasses-i.html https://www.msu.edu/~jdowell/miner.html

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