In “Body Ritual among the Nacirema”, Horace Miner (1956) revisits the rituals of a North American group, the Nacirema, as first described by Professor Linton in the early 1900s. Miner depicts these people as quite vain; obsessive over money, appearance and health. While the economic status of a Nacirema individual is extremely important, nothing compares to the significance of the rituals of the body. These rituals tend to involve various steps that allow the Nacirema people to present themselves to the world in their fittest, most beautiful form. The majority of these rituals are performed by the individual in their own home, in extreme privacy. The body is viewed as a disgusting vessel, in need of constant upkeep to be presentable to others. The Nacirema home contains one or more ‘shrines’, devoted to transforming the body into the definition of health and beauty. The main purpose of the shrine is to hold charms and magical potions, bought from various specialized practitioners. Each member of the house takes a turn within the shrine, every morning, mixing various potions with holy font water and performing their individual absolution ritual. The appearance of the mouth has profound social significance to the Nacirema people. On a daily and bi-yearly basis, the individual takes various precautions to ensu...
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...aluate another’s culture? Regardless of my questions and concerns, Miner’s work is a phenomenal showcase of the ethnocentric fallacy, the power of language and the bias it can cause in anthropological works, and the significance of cultural acceptance to this field of study.
In critically summarizing and analyzing Horace Miner’s “Body Ritual among the Nacirema”, I was able to better understand the significance of avoiding bias and the ethnocentric view in anthropology. The article equips the reader with the tools needed to better understand other cultures, in terms of their own beliefs and rituals. Miner’s original approach does create a certain level of confusion that forces the reader to critically evaluate his purpose. “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” by Horace Miner ultimately brings people together, by illuminating the eccentricities present in all cultures.
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