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Worship and Horace Miner

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  • Pages: 3
  • Word count: 577
  • Category: Culture

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In the essay “Body Ritual Among the “Nacirema”, anthropologist Horace Miner describes a group of people known as the Nacirema, a little known tribe living in North America. The way in which he writes about the curious practices that this group performs, distances readers from the fact that the North American group described actually corresponds to modern day Americans of the mid 1950’s. The Nacirema’s cultural beliefs are deeply rooted in the perspective that the human body is prone to sickness and disfiguration. Consequently, a substantial part of their lives are spent on unusual rituals and customs to improve conditions of the body that are filled with magical components. How have the Nacirema managed to exist? It seems unimaginable with all of the burdens they have brought upon themselves. As Miner mentioned, “It seems desirable to describe them as an example of the of the extremes to which human behavior can go.” It seems almost crazy! Also, When visiting the doctor, there is no guarantee one will be cured. In certain cases, one might even be killed; so why is there such a great amount of faith in the health care system? Why is so much hope and faith put into things that are actually harmful?

The things that cannot be lived without are the things which make everything go South. Among different rituals practiced by the Nacirema, an important one involves the “shrine” for it is almost impossible to find a household without one, and the richer the family, the more shrines they have. The rituals associated with the shrine are kept private. Each person worships in front of the “charm box” located in the shrine, which holds immeasurable amounts of magical drinks and therapies whose works are only known to the medicine men. The “shrine” is referring to the bathroom in each American household, and the “charm box” being the medicine cabinet. The “medicine men” refer to doctors and the “worshipping” behavior shows Americans’ obsession with appearances, as they feel ugly and are not comfortable with the form of their own bodies, therefore they are always enhancing some part of them to feel more comfortable or fit in. This most usual routine for average Americans can be seen as bizarre and exotic when judged from an outside culture.

Miner further describes another significant ritual, the “sacred mouth practice” which involves inflicting pain by a specialist (dentist) of the mouth area to prevent its deterioration, along with a different procedure done by the individual privately on a daily basis (brushing teeth). The Nacirema fears the decay of the mouth area, and believes its condition also affects their social ability. Miner uses the Naciremas’ unusual culture to establish his view that we simply could not judge another culture that it is different from our own. Horace Miner demonstrates that “attitudes about the body” have a pervasive influence on many institutions in American society. He clearly shows that we are always doing something to make ourselves feel or look better, while ignoring the consequences, which could be positive or negative. Enormous amounts of money are spent on items we feel are needed to stay alive. Yes, regular doctor visits are necessary as well as personal hygiene, however they do not always need to be taken to the extreme. “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” puts this idea into view. If we were to look at our culture from an outside perspective, we might be schocked!

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