Body Ritual among the Nacirema essay

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'Body Ritual among the Nacirema' is an article by Horace Miner. In this article, Miner describes the way a particular tribe behaves. He talks of how the tribe performs strange rituals to very extreme levels. It becomes quite interesting when the reader notes that it is the American society he is talking about. He disguises 'the Nacirema' as American people. He also disguises the bathroom as a cleaning shrine, the medicine chest as the major device in the shrine and the hair on a stick as a toothbrush. Miner employs this style of writing to illustrate that Americans are ethnocentric people. There are several hints in this article which point to the fact that 'the Nacirema' actually refer to the Americans. For example, the word Nacirema when spelt backwards reads 'American'. He uses satire to criticize the American way of life. In this article, Miner reveals to us how outsiders think of the American society.Miner portrays the American culture as not being different from other civilizations. The difference only comes about in the perspective of the individual when he/she looks at a specific culture. A different view from those in the civilization would mean that the customs and the rituals are very strange or exotic. As such, it is always good to have this idea in mind while studying other cultures. One may easily misunderstand a society if he/she does not remember that the culture that he/she is studying is perfectly normal to those who practice it. In Body Ritual among the Nacirema, Miner analyses how the American culture is absurd. He describes how ridiculous activities go on in the American way of life. According to him, the American culture has its people correcting what is already fine, for example, the use of plastic surgery which is utterly uncalled for.
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Miner gives us a glimpse of the important aspects of the American way of life too. For example, the rituals they perform mainly focus on the human body, and this in actual sense suggests individualism. Miner also outlines the social divisions of the Americans by their wealth. The Nacirema culture portrays its people devoting much of their time to economic pursuits. However, most of the fruits of their labors and much of their valuable time are spent in ritual activities. He describes the shrine as a private and secret place where cleansing and makeup rituals take place. For instance, the box and the chest have charms and potions from the medicine men. Holy water is also available in the fonts to perform the rituals. Miner also talks of the holy-month-men. According to him, the American society gives the holy-month-men visits for health and romantic concerns. He argues that parents, especially mothers, pass these secrets to their little ones so that the rituals continue to exist. He also speaks of how Americans treat their body fat. He says that Americans have rituals which make fat people thin and vice versa. Another rite which they perform is the enlargement of women's breasts. To conclude, the most important factor which comes out of this article is that even though cultural practices are different, they are uniquely normal to those living in that particular civilization. As such, a person should not view a different society as being alien because of upholding a certain culture since it could be the same way that society thinks of this person's culture.

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