The author’s purpose in writing this article was not to show the “Nacirema” as an example of how extreme human behavior can become, but how an outside perspective can affect your perception of an alien culture. If one were to look at the “Nacirema’s” cultural behaviors regarding physical appearance and health without any insight or knowledge of the specific beliefs or values of that culture, they might seem bizarre and even incomprehensible. By showing behaviors and “rituals” performed by this unknown tribe, Miner allowed others to see that the way studies were representing distinctive cultures was narrowminded and defective. Without the proper comprehension of the basis of any society, huge cultural misunderstandings could occur. Of course, in Miner’s article, the “Nacirema” refers to the American people, but in discussing ‘them’ as an exotic or unfamiliar people you are forced to forgo any ethnocentric notions of American society and try to understand their customs and rituals from an etic perspective. It’s an interesting and intriguing way to show a cultural analysis of a “primitive” people and provide a biased outlook on a different culture.
The author’s thesis is that the “Nacirema” are a people based around their perception of physical appearances and peculiar rituals. Although the concept of the human body as an “ugly” and decaying vessel is paramount to the rationalization of such rituals, much of their daily routines are meant to avoid or dissuade this conviction. These curious rituals occur in the privacy of “shrines” and, for the most part, the human body and its natural functions are veiled and only spoken of to “medicine men” and “witch-doctors”. Also, they seem to be a “masochistic” society constructed around willingly subjecting themselves to pain and “tortures”. The “Nacirema” deliberately permit “medicine men” and “holy-mouth-men” to perform excruciating procedures to prevent the inevitable decay of their bodies and mouths. And while the...
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