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Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

Autor:   •  June 17, 2012  •  Research Paper  •  1,229 Words (5 Pages)  •  1,903 Views

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Body Ritual among the Nacirema

"Body Ritual among the Nacirema" is a clever article by Horace Miller written in 1955. In this article Miner goes to great lengths describing the extreme behavior of the North American tribe living between Canada and Mexico. They are said to perform strange rituals which support their magical beliefs (Miner, 1956, p. 503). The founding father of this nation was strong enough to throw the equivalent of money across a wide river ("Wampum," 2003/2005, p. 1408). This hero named "Notgnihsaw" once cut down a cherry tree and told the truth about doing so (Weems, 1999-2012). This article was written to heighten our awareness of ethnocentrism and social imagination by startling the reader when they discover Mr. Miller has crafted an imaginative story, as an outsider might, from an exaggerated and bias perspective in view of the daily rituals in American society. The article goes too far in its examples of some of these "outlandish" behaviors because in reality they are performed not in the name of vanity, but instead to promote health and hygiene.

Mr. Miller wrote this article in 1955 to make an argument for the importance of using cultural relativism which is defined in our textbook, by Schaefer (2010) as, "viewing people's behavior from the perspective of their own culture" (55). He uses this deceptive style to persuade his audience to study a foreign culture through a neutral lens. While learning about a foreign culture without assuming superiority we gain a realistic picture and hopefully support, perhaps even learn from, their behavior.

Unfortunately, the author presents the material about the "American tribe" from a rather "savage" and uneducated perspective of an native American Indian. This conclusion can be drawn from the use of the word wampum in paragraph two, page 503. Wampum is described in the Merriam-Webster's dictionary as a term used by North American Indians for currency. The words "ritual", "ceremony", and magical are used frequently in the beginning of the article to describe the behavior of the Nacirema (American spelled backwards) tribe. Most of us have been exposed to information of early American Indians being people who believed in the supernatural they used rituals, ceremonies, and magical thinking as the common bond of their people. They were thought to be ignorant and without merit. When many of us were young we were given the facts that as European settlers we came in and took this land between Canada and Mexico from the Native American's because we were the superior race

While encouraging the audience to view the world as an educated anthropologist might, this author, in the 1950's, is clearly viewing the American culture through the eyes of a native American. It is a put-down to the native American


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