Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

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The article “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” by Horace Miner, was very interesting because it mocks our society as a whole without blatantly stating the similarities. The reader is supposed to view the Nacirema as being quite outrageous in their way of life; the magical beliefs and superstitions. However, if you step back and look at the bigger picture of the article, is the Nacirema really any different from us?

This statement, “The focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people,” is parallel to how we, as North Americans, think. (Miner, 1956) Appearance has become an increasingly large issue for many in our society and it affects people of all ages, beginning in our youth. There are issues with body weight, height and colour. There are also issues with certain body “areas” such as the breasts, nose, or legs. The people of the Nacirema go to a medicine man with a concerning issue. The man then accepts gifts in exchange for his knowledge and ingredients for a cure. I can go to a plastic surgeon, have him trim my legs of unwanted fat, and he will receive my money as a fee owed to his work performed. If I do not pay him, he will not “cure” me.

The wealthier people among the Nacirema had more shrines in their home than the poor and the shrines were more attractive. The shrines are symbols of their status. The wealthier people can afford more gifts to give to the medicine men, herbalists, and listeners. This in turn means that they will receive more ingredients, or more value, to their lives. Are the wealthier people in our society more accessible to the resources that make them “beautiful”? Absolutely. Are surgeries, diets, hair coloring, and tanning beds a symbol of status in our society? Definitely. The author also states that “the fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly.” (Miner, 1956) Society has adapted visual ideas...
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