Cultural Perspectives of Dress
JOURNAL ENTRY CHAPTER 1
1.6 Body Ritual among the Nacirema
Horace Miner, University of Michigan
In the article, the author introduces us alleging that the anthropologist is familiar with so many different behaviors that it is hard to believe he can be shocked by some exotic culture. However, he specifies later that the piece is just about how far humans can reach regarding their demeanors and rites. Along the article, Miner describes the habits – I might just call them obsessive – of a group located in North America, which focuses their daily rituals particularly in the care and cleaning of the human body (which, according to their ideology, tends to disease and emaciation). From the fourth paragraph, the reader begins to suspect that the article is not informative, but a strong social critique instead - narrated as parody – about the ‘superficial, based-onappearance’ North American culture. He builds metaphors, analogies and images founded on everything that involves hygienic rituals of the American: from teeth brushing, to plastic surgery for cosmetic reasons. It is possible to make the relationship between the article and the first chapter based primarily on the definition of dress. According to the authors of the book, dress involves, in addition to clothing and accessories, all those intentional modifications made to the human body; but it also addresses culture and its objective and subjective elements. Evidently, the ceremonies and cults that Miner describes throughout the reading are part of the subjective elements – i.e. intangibles – of American culture. In the first chapter of the book we are introduced to scientific theories about how dress affects and derives from interpersonal relationships. I might venture to say that American people – although not exclusively – base their physical appearance standards in symbolic interaction theory. Much of what we see in the mirror just before leaving our homes is the...
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