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21st Century Nacirema

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  • Pages: 5
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  • Category: Culture

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The Nacirema culture remains to be one of the interesting findings by Miner in the 1950’s. Until now, it is still considered as one most puzzling practices as their customs and traditions continue to be rooted in numerous superstitions and beliefs. Now, in the 21st century, the culture remains rooted in its traditions with modifications to suite the current time. Due to this, changes can be seen in the process as the Nacirema continue to adapt to the challenges and hurdles in the 21st century.

Nacirema in the 20th Century

Looking at the Nacirema culture, though they tend to focus on economic transactions in general, they also have a fanatic for numerous bodily rituals and customs that seem absurd to various sociologists during that time. Miner argues that “while much of the people’s time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion of the day are spent in ritual activity” (p.503). Their concern for the body remains to be categorized as extreme forms of mutilation and focused on removing the “ugliness” (Miner, 1956).

One particular obsession of a Nacirema involves is its inclination or use of shrines to better their physical appearances. Looking at it, each family dedicates a particular time and place at the household to better them. Moreover, the practice reflects depending on the social status of a Nacirema; the more powerful and rich individuals have more rituals to perform. As Miner mentions, “the more powerful individuals in the society have several shrines in their houses and, in fact, the opulence of a house is often referred to in terms of the number of such ritual centers it possesses” (p.504).

Another obsession involves patronizing charms and potions provided by medicine men. Their relative trust and belief towards these amulets and devices have been well documented by Miner in his observations. Despite the increase of their numbers and it’s relatively little worth, Nacirema’s continue to collect and keep these things with the overall idea that it can protect them from their individual weaknesses (Miner, 1956). By doing this, each one is feeling inclined towards creating better outcomes for themselves.

The passion for the mouth is also another obsession observable among Nacirema’s. This can be observed by their belief that the mouth should be cleaned at all times for it is an important aspect of communication, health and relationships. Without the necessary care, they think it could lead to detrimental effects. Miner further argues that “Were it not for the rituals of the mouth, they believe that their teeth would fall out, their gums bleed, their jaws shrink, their friends desert them, and their lovers reject them” (p.506). In addition, this provides an avenue for them to engage with the “holy mouth men” to further improve their condition. Despite the relative pain that the holy mouth men can do, Nacirema’s endure it for the benefit of improvement on their health (Miner, 1956).

Lastly, there is their inclination towards going to the latipso – a place where Nacirema people go to cleanse their body via several ritual procedures. Despite the risks involved in the process inside the place, many still continue to patronize the way the practice. On the other hand, there is also an obsession among witchdoctors to help them alleviate the devils within the heads of Nacirema’s.

Nacirema’s in the 21st Century

Nowadays, there are new obsessions in the practices and customs by Nacirema’s. Their society has evolved and adapted to the challenges in the recent times. Before elaborating on these various customs and practices, it is first important to determine whether or not their previous beliefs remain to be applicable. Looking at Dimsdale’s article, it can be argued that the Nacirema culture continues to maintain the same practices as before but then had to create new ones so as to address the changes in the 21st century.
Nacirema continue to believe that the human body is ugly that is why they continue to practice laceration, going to latipso, holy mouth men and witch doctors. However, there is a shift of attention today as Nacriema’s address the issues of overpopulation and death. Due to this, there is an addition of norms and practices that seek to address these changes. By doing this, they continue to maintain their beliefs and ideals towards the betterment of the tribe.

One particular obsession revolves around the concept of overpopulation. When Dimsdale revisited the Nacirema location, he observed how the Nacirema culture engages in violence to alleviate the population problem. Dimsdale argues that “such deaths are viewed as part of the ritual performed in worshipping the deity Modeerf” (p.75). This event enables tribe members to select the person (Namnug) to practice the ritual sacrifice and kill people until a certain point when the priests stop them (Dimsdale, 2001).

Another practice that the Nacirema’s advocate deals with introducing a new drug to combat the rising population. The overall objective is to induce poisoning and addiction towards people by introducing the drug; occabot. The drug is introduced to the locals of the tribe and is reportedly to provide good feeling at first however; in the long run it leads to death for the people. Dimsdale argues that “natives pay the priests heavily for the occabot, and consequently, the priests build large temple dwellings for themselves and Modeerf” (p.75).

Another change that happened in the process involves the creation of new cult in the Nacirema culture. The emoneg is a worshipping faction that evolved out from the process wherein they have an alternative approach to the increasing number of Nacirema’s who die in the swamps (Dimsdale, 2001). In addition, they have done sufficient studies to provide better insights and understanding of how the priests can interpret the clouds and control the weather god (emoneg) to help alleviate the drying swamps.

Lastly, due to the current challenges within the Nacirema culture, Dimsdale also observed the eventual decline of the importance of the family in society. Dimsdale argues that “although many Nacirema live solitary lives, sleeping fearfully in the fields or dirt paths in the village, the few families that remain tend to worship in the evening in front of a small illuminated shrine” (p.75). Seeing this, the family has constantly becoming secondary in the Nacirema culture.


There are clearly several changes happening within the Nacirema culture. Moreover, the recent challenges have enabled the group to create new norms and practices that will best fit the desired needs of the time. In addition, it can be seen that though there have been different alterations happening in the tribe, one observable fact remains to be the same; Nacirema’s continue to patronize sadistic and masochistic acts to achieve their goals of keeping the body from any form of ugliness and disease.

Works Cited
Dimsdale, Joel E. Nacirema Revisited. The Society of Behavioral Medicine. 2001, 23 no.1
accessed 19 September 2008: 75-76
Miner, Horace. Body ritual among the Nacirema. American Anthropoligists. 1956, no.58
accessed 19 September 2008: 503-507

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