Summary of Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

Topics: Sociology, Culture, Ritual, Worship, Human body, Bathroom / Pages: 3 (724 words) / Published: Dec 15th, 2011
“Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” Summary In the essay “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”, anthropologist Horace Miner depicts a group of people known as the “Nacirema”, but is referring to Americans, whose cultural beliefs are deeply rooted in the perspective that the human body is prune to sickness and disfiguration. Consequently, a substantial part of their lives is spent on unusual rituals and customs to improve conditions of the body that are filled with magical components. Moreover, Miner uses the Nacirema’s unusual culture to establish his view that we simply could not judge another culture that it is different from our own, as opposed to another anthropologist Malinowski’s point that we can judge another culture since we are superior but we should not (Miner 173).
Among different “exotic” rituals practiced by the “Nacirema”, an important one involves the “shrine”, for it is almost impossible to find a household without it. Each person worships in front of the “charm box” in the shrine, which holds vast amount of magical drinks and remedies whose components are only known to the medicine men (Miner 172). The “shrine” is referring to the bathroom in each American household, and the “charm box” being the medicine cabinet and the “medicine men” referring to doctors. The “worshipping” behavior shows Americans’ obsession with appearances, as they fear the ugly natural form of the body, and perform the daily routine of cleansing and examining themselves in front of the mirror (172). This most usual routine for average Americans can be seen as bizarre and exotic when judged from an outside culture.
Miner further describes another significant ritual, the “sacred mouth practice” which involves inflicting pain by a specialist of the mouth area to prevent its deterioration, along with a different procedure done by the individual privately on a daily basis. The Nacirema fears the decay of the mouth area, and believes its condition also affect their social

Cited: Miner, Horace. “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”. American Anthropologist. June 1965: 503-507. Print.

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