This study examines Horace Miner’s essay “Body Rituals Among the Nacirema. While using the participant observation approach, he gives us a new perspective on the daily behaviors within this group of people. Exploring ethnocentrism and how we view cultures outside of our own. Horace Miner was a professor for the University of Michigan. He sought out to teach young people the importance of cultural anthropology. ("Horace Mitchell Miner - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia", n. d)
In June of 1956, he released an article that he had written called, “Body Rituals Among the Nacirema” in the American Anthropologist (vol 58, pp 503-507) Miner writes so cleverly as he explores the culture that of the Nacirema people. While using this ethnography method he was able to live amongst this sub-group so he could explore this culture intimately and capture “social meanings and ordinary activities” ("Ethnography- Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia", n. d. ) While Miner observed this culture, it allowed us to peer inside the daily behaviors and shocking rituals of the Nacirema. Who were the Nacirema?
Why were they so barbaric and primal? After reading the article, I was left speechless and couldn’t believe that anyone in a civilized environment would choose to live this way. Then it had dawned on me, this was a lesson to the American people on ethnocentrism. ("Ethnocentrism - Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia", n. d. ) We have become so set in our own ways and standards that we use our own daily rituals to judge and to discriminate the cultures belonging to other people. We reference our own behaviors to default those of other cultures and backgrounds. I had to go back through Miner’s article and read it again.
Thus, it made perfect sense! He was speaking of the rituals that of the American people. Changing the wording that depicts the daily bodily rituals of American people in such an exaggerated way, the lesson is learned. We have just as many bizarre customs as the next culture does. In fact many of our rituals are equal to others. Making the Nacirema into this illusionary tribe. “The magical beliefs and practices of the Nacirema present such unusual aspects that it seems desirable to describe them as an example of the extremes to which human behaviors can go” (Miner, pp 503) Miner references that the culture falls within a well developed economy, and much of the daily focus is spent on ritualistic activities, with such an emphasis on the human body.
Miner uses terms to try and distort the reality of our culture. Using “shrines” to replace the use of bathrooms, terming “medicine man” for the Doctors we see. Americans rely so heavily on health care in our country, the over use of medications and seeking treatment that is unneeded. The trust that is put into the Doctors to heal us with their “magical potions and pills” (Miner, pp 504) I couldn’t help but to think of ancient voodoo black magic.
American’s depend on the use of prescription pills to heal all of our ailments, but those who cannot afford to seek the treatment or the ‘healing’ of the medicine man, simply do not go. Our oral rituals of brushing our teeth and dental treatments that is otherwise viewed as sadistic. The “Listener” plays the role of the psychologist, with the expectations to heal all of the wrong that has been done to us. We have placed such an emphasis on our bodies, with crazy dieting and exercising, surgical procedures to altar our images to find the happiness we are constantly seeking everywhere other than from our inner beings.
We use our breasts for everything except for their intended purpose of breastfeeding our infants, rather we supplement our babies with factory made formula. Women shamed and attacked at the mere sight of a child suckling on her breast. It has become perverted and our culture over-sexualized. It is a wonder how our culture has survived this way for as long as it has. Horace Miner was among many who used the participant observation method of data collection, it has also been known as a naturalistic approach. It a very subjective form of research, as the anthropologists will immerse themselves within the environment in which they are observing.
Although the evidence is true and valid, the results from the concluded findings cannot be duplicated. (Bryant, 2000) The research takes place in the natural setting. I think it would very difficult at times to remain in the role as researcher and avoid becoming a member of the group being researched. Using the Structural Functionalism theory, this is a framework that anthropologist and sociologist use to determine how the order of society functions as a whole on a macro level focus. How the interdependence affects one another.
Each member, or group is essentially an organ that together makes up the whole system. If one is damaged, it will affect each other organ and can ultimately cause a disruption or dysfunction in the whole system. Durkheim coined the term “mechanical solidarity”, which referred to the sharing of beliefs, morals and traditions each culture holds and then is transferred through socialization. Although it seems the way other cultures live their daily lives is strange or different than your own, passing judgment onto others in the end becomes a direct reflection of who you are as a person.
To accept other cultures and embrace their differences speaks volumes in the character that you possess. Each subgroup contributes something wonderful to the whole. The diversity in itself gives back in ways that in end is simply priceless. We are no greater than the next, and they are no greater than us. Everything we know has been taught to us in one way or another. Ultimately we can also choose to accept the differences of our fellow man.