Body Ritual Among the Nacirema
January 15, 2014
The “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” by Horace Miner, is an article that examines the various rituals that manifests within industrialized societies, specifically referencing to the United States. In the article Miner joked about the invasion of privacy and the obsession of becoming immortal. Miner provides gives outstanding evidence that the characteristics or an attitude of the human body has a broad influence on a variety of institutions in the Nacirema society. Throughout the article Miner provides an understanding perspective how Americans do similar rituals in a different point of view. One key word that was emphasized in the article that numerous times was “ritual” and how it transformed the way we lives. It clearly mentions how our society perceives that idea and whether we act positively or negatively to it. Miner implements a wonderful inscription on the readers thought as how other societies may view our own. After reading the article, I agree with many ideas Miner made about society because of country does use exaggerated body image and misuse the idea of preventive medicine.
The natural tendency of the human body and mind has always sparked a great debate. For example, were humans born with good or a bad intention is an ongoing debate. Remarkably, these beliefs are also reflected within a society or cultures even today. A group called Nacirema, located in North America, believed that the human body is ugly and is prone to “natural tendency” which was debility and disease. Following this “natural tendency”, the “holy mouth man” used magical instruments and drilled them into the holes of cavities created by tooth decay. Although this practice was believed to cure the problem it only intensified the infection in the tooth. Also there was a medicine man that treated sick patients which ultimately leaves them in a state where they can never be cured. These practices were performed in Nacirema, which showed their faith towards the natural law of humans. In contrast to the Nacriema’s culture, our modern society has somewhat of different approach to this “natural tendency”. In general, it is inevitably that all humans will age which means they are more susceptible to becoming ill. Thus, the “natural tendency” in our modern society does not differ much from the Nacirema culture. Yet, our modern society seems to disapprove the natural tendency. People try to look more youthful by applying cosmetics, treat diseases and vaccines shots regularly. In today’s society the rituals of the Nacirema may seem cruel and inhumane. However the Nacriema culture can be characterized as following the natural tendency, which is the law of the universe. Therefore, based on the analysis of the two distinct perspectives toward our approach to nature, it can be known that cultural relativism is needed when looking at different cultures.
Miner’s ironic article, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” is an entertaining social commentary can be argued to be ethnocentric. Miner knowingly chooses the American culture because of their cultural practices (the use of cosmetics and hygiene products). One would expect to hear the practice of our society is technologically primitive and tribal. Miner evokes this approach of thinking to the reader by attempting to unwittingly use our cultural preconceptions against our own customs. Ultimately I believe Miner achieved his goal to force readers to believe that concept. Similarly to every other culture, Americans have plenty of taboo practices that when viewed objectively they appear very illogical and in some cases ridiculous. Upon reaching his revelation, Miner says, “we should view the traditions of other cultures with an improved understanding.” However, I think it would be foolish to believe that we can ever completely eliminate ourselves of all cultural biases or ethnocentricity. Each individual will always view life at his or her own viewpoint. Perhaps this is what Miner was trying convey to us. Maybe he wanted us to view our culture and determine how we would be viewed in other cultures. The idea does spark great debate for those who conduct intellectual or scientific research. Nonetheless, they are in theory accountable to present their own findings without injecting their own opinions, but conversely this an absolutely unrealistic expectation. Try as they may, as I mentioned earlier; people will see things differently through there own eyes and any beliefs that accompanies their idea.
In conclusion, I felt a bit saddened while reading, “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” because there are a lot of people who stress so hard on appearance, rather than living life as humble and optimistically as possible. In fact, the whole article made the United States seem a bit sickening morally. If I could pretend that Nacirema was a culture outside of our country, I would never visit that country because of the harsh critics and judgments I would have to endure constantly. Frivolous judgments like how you look, the way you dress and how much wealth you generate. Overall I’ve learned a lot and I didn’t know anything about the Nacirema definitely an article everyone should read.
Miner, Horace. Body Ritual among the Nacirema. June 1956. 14 January 2014 .