Analysis of the Nacirema
Sociology 101 04D
Ivy Tech Community College
The analysis of the article Body Ritual Among the Nacerima by Horace Minor uses key principles to help decipher the hidden meanings behind his work. The article is based off of Americans but written in a primitive manner to help show readers the importance of keeping an open mind. Cultural relativism is crucial when researching a new topic. This culture is different than others based on their obsession with physical appearance but it does not make them wrong. Also, the culture that practices different rituals has a different belief system. One culture may place great importance on preserving the land while others on industry and development. People who believe they are superior to those practicing these rituals, or who are ethnocentric, have a biased opinion already based. It is important to research and collect data before creating an opinion on a matter. In sociology, it can lead to many positive outcomes instead of negative when the right steps are taken. Horace Minor helped show this in his article by disguising it about his own people and the modern day world.
Key words: Cultural relativism, ethnocentrism, Nacirema, research, bias
In Horace Miner’s article, “Body Rituals Among the Nacirema,” the customs of a culture are introduced centering around one main room filled with shrines and important material objects. The purpose of the article was not to show how out of the ordinary or weird the customs are in this culture, but rather how they might look to an outsider. This culture is obsessed with looks and commits many rituals to help maintain beauty. They have a room devoted to practice these rituals in and practice them every day. By writing this article based on the older or primitive days, the reader forms a bias on the people and their ways of living. This article is actually based on the American people, but writing it under a cover story shows how easily the wrong bias or opinion could be formed without all the facts. Horace Minor wrote this article to help promote the practice of cultural relativism on any culture in the world, defeat ethnocentrism of certain cultures, and help show that research is required before an opinion on any topic. Furthermore, Minor wrote this article on the “Nacirema” or American people. Based on the article, these people are part of a very ritualistic culture in which they spend several hours a day in a specific room. These practices are very private but people subject themselves to great “torture” or “pain” in order to minimize the decaying ways of the body. (Minor, 1956) They enable the help of medicine men and holy mouth-men to dole out trinkets and practice painful procedures to promote beauty of the body and teeth. Sexual intercourse is widely discussed and certain procedures are taken to prevent pregnancy. He discusses the act of bathing in a shrine. In all reality, this discusses present day America. Americans spend several hours a day in the bathroom focusing on enhancing their beauty. They take showers or baths every day to clean off the grime of the day. Doctors and dentists are seen on a semi-regular basis to decrease the risk of illness or infection. Women in present day America are obsessed with body image and do many different types of makeovers to themselves to be beautiful. Also, as discussed, sex is no longer a taboo subject. Condoms and birth control are used to help prevent pregnancy and are a social norm in the society. The fact that this was written in disguise helps show how easy it is to pass judgment on what one does not know or what is unfamiliar. Furthermore, forming biases and judgments on the unfamiliar can lead to many problems for cultures. It is imperative that people try to practice cultural relativism. As defined by Sociology by Richard T. Schaeffer, cultural relativism means, “viewing people’s...
References: Minor, H. (1956, June). Body Ritual among the Nacirema. Retrieved September 4, 2014.
Schaeffer, R. (2012). Culture. In Sociology (13th ed., p. 54). New York: McGraw Hill.
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