Sociological Perspective on "Body Rituals of the Nacirema" by Horace Miner

Topics: Sociology, North America, United States Pages: 3 (982 words) Published: November 13, 2012
“Body Rituals among the Nacirema” is an article written by Horace Miner about a group of people, the Nacirema, and their everyday functions or rituals. Miner relates the culture, practices, values, and beliefs of a seemingly exotic and strange tribe. He vividly and descriptively describes behaviors and activities that are interpreted as unusual and strange. The tribe Miner depicts seems primal and uncivilized, and yet somewhat familiar. They are a “North American group living in the territory between the Canadian Creel the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles” (Miner). This area is the United States of America and upon recognizing the location, the reader starts to become cognizant of the presence of an ulterior message. Miner’s depiction draws us in but shortly, we realize he is referring to American society; read backwards, Nacirema spells ‘American.’ Instead of describing a far-away and exotic tribe, as the reader first expects, the article describes very ‘normal’ aspects of American life, such as dental hygiene and medicine. The use of language like “mouth-rite,” “holy-mouth-men,” and “medicine men” frames these aspects in a very abnormal way. Miner does an exceptional job of disguising the American culture as ‘Nacirema.’ Once unveiling this disguise, many references can easily be seen and the article is interpreted in a whole new way; for example, the “cleansing shrine” as the washroom, “magical potions” as medicine, and “latipso” as hospital. This article is written as an observation on American society but could be generalized as ‘North American’ practices. The article demonstrates that attitudes about the body have a widespread influence on many social institutions. Many of the rituals that we have in North America involve manipulating our image and this value contradicts the enlightened and rational creatures we sometimes imagine ourselves to be. Miner effectively convinces the reader of the somewhat ridiculous nature...
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