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Nacirema Essay

nacirema essay

Example #1

Nacirema culture is characterized by the hardworking and rich people who live in the natural habitat endowed with richness and spent most of their time in developing their economy in order to improve their lives’ status.

They are very ritualistic in the way they do their routine tasks and natural functions such as men daily rite of shaving their beards, women rites of baking their hair four times a month, visiting their dentists twice a year, daily ablution of the face, bathing and excretory are ritually done in secret and even scheduled sexual intercourse.

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Nacirema culture is a very civilized culture. The way they do, their things portray a very civilized society whose patients go to the hospitals to be treated by special health professionals such as doctors, dentists, psychologists, and nurses. They also use clean treated water and detergents in daily cleanness.

The culture also portrays a health-conscious society in the way they have ritualized their cleanness in their bathrooms, consider their bodies susceptible to diseases hence must be taken good care of, daily brushing of their teeth and going to the dentist twice a year.

Miner portrayed Nacirema culture from the uncivilized person point view because he could not describe what constitutes civilization; every aspect of the Nacirema culture was quite strange to him.

Miner described health, cleanness, and beauty very strangely but the impression I got shows that Nacirema culture is a good culture that is sensitive to health matters and would like to live in that kind of society. Miner used strange descriptions such as priests treating water (water treatment plants), psychologist (Listener), sink (small font), and hospital (temple or laptipso).

Misunderstanding of the Nacirema culture can adversely affect their cultural image and portray their social behaviors and customs as very strange and complex. The first impression can depict Nacirema culture as so ritualistic in their way of living because they go to shrines daily, women baking their hair, using holy water, talking to witchdoctors, and many more strange descriptions of their rites.

Characteristics of American culture share the same characteristics with the Nacirema culture because they are hardworking and rich, ritualistic in their daily routine, civilized in their living standards, and are a healthy society.

Miner’s description of Nacirema culture depicts them as a strange and mysterious culture that lived a long time ago before the dawn of civilization but viewing from the analytical point of view and understanding the miner’s language of description. Interpreting the strange descriptions of Nacirema culture portrays the positive culture of the society.

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Cultural relativism is an anthropological approach that treats all cultures equally in their studies to provide a neutral point of view (Glazer, 1996). The importance of cultural relativism gives an in-depth study of culture with a neutral eye in order to understand it at its own merit and not from the viewpoint of other cultures.

Since cultural relativism is a scientific study of cultures, judgments are not considered as valid values that can be standardized and used in gauging varied cultures. The judgments such as good or bad, right or wrong are very subjective values that depend on cultures (Glazer, 1996). Without cultural relativism, the study of cultures will give biased and false opinions about other cultures by portraying other cultures as more or less evolved as others portray.


Example #2

Horace Miner writes about the Nacirema, a culture steeped in magic and superstition. Their ways of life are portrayed as uncivilized and barbaric. The Nacirema perform rituals and rites that are strange to us here in the civilized world. The description and portrayal of this tribe make it very hard for the reader to connect or even begin to understand such strange people.

Miner starts of the article creating an atmosphere of wonderment; “if all of the logically possible combinations of behavior have not been found somewhere in the world, he(anthropologist) is apt to suspect that they must be present in some yet undescribed tribe”(Miner:1956:503). And that tribe is the Nacirema, a foreign and strange people to whom we in the western…

The ‘listener’ or psychologist is another example that Miner uses. The Nacirema, troubled by their childhoods and demons of their minds go to the listener to let out all of their troubles. This is synonymous with trips to the psychologist to talk about one’s problems. The incredulity one feels when Miner writes, “It is not uncommon for the patient to bemoan the rejection he felt upon being weaned as a babe and a few individuals even see their troubles going back.


Example #3

To most of us, hospitals are a place to help you when you’re in need or want to get healthy. But for the Nacirema, it’s quite the opposite. According to the Nacirema ritual article, they call hospitals a latipso, which is hospital spelled backwards without the ‘H’. They discuss and caricature the repulsive viewings on what they think goes on in hospitals (latipso’s), or what they think they do.

I will now tell you how in Miner’s perspective, the body is ugly and how the body is dirty. In the Nacirema point of view, this is how they see hospitals. In the Nacirema ritual article, they call the people who dehumanize other people, medicine men. The medicine men manage their sick patients dressed in costumes and…

Almost everyone goes through this at some point in their lives, and you are not judged or discriminated against. When you are very sick and unable to take care of yourself and can’t do things on your own, it is the nurse’s job to take care of you. The nurses use a thermometer to check their patient’s temperature and give them food to help them heal and recover. On the other hand, when doctors need to cure you or prevent you from a disease or illness, they insert needles to cure that disease or make you immune to it to help you stay healthy. The reason all the Nacirema assumptions seem bizarre to us is that hospitals aren’t that extreme, or don’t seem that way to us.

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People strip their clothes and lather their bodies with a greasy substance. They then lay in a bright spaceship for a little bit while the spaceship cooks them until people are golden brown, or burnt. But that’s not the only thing they do that’s strange. They pour on their bodies sticky honey-like paste and cover themselves with a sheet.

The sheet is then ripped off of the people, tearing off a layer of skin that makes blood spill out, and you look as red as a tomato. These examples can be related to the two tenets of how the body is ugly and dirty. The body is ugly because people look like disgustingly brown and red bloody creatures, which are mentally deranged.


Example #4

Written by Horace Miner, this essay of the people group Nacirema is an interesting look at their everyday functions. The tribe Miner describes is seemingly primal and uncivilized, and yet somewhat familiar. The entire account of these mysterious people describes unusual and strange behaviors and activities. The brief overview of the Nacirema is graphic from Miner’s point of view.

When the meaning of the story becomes clear, the purpose of writing it becomes either humor or disdain. In this article written by Miner, he describes the tribe of the Nacirema vividly and descriptively. The Nacirema are a tribe known for only twenty years. When they were discovered there was almost no information…

The chest holds many charms and magical potions that are the basis for these people’s lives. At the bottom of each box is a small font. These fonts play a significant part in the rituals. Sometimes they sprinkle holy water over the font.

This holy water is distributed from the regional Water Temple. After medicine men, there are “holy-mouth-men” who do barbaric and painful rituals on the tribespeople’s mouths. These rituals are continued in the home involving hog hair on sticks and certain powders in a ritual done by the tribe every day. This tribe has many sadistic health-related rituals along with the tooth check-up. Many are far more painful and happen on scheduled dates as if the tribal people enjoy it.

There are centers for the most debilitated called latipsos. The sick are “healed” but almost no one ever fully recovers. Some cannot get into the latipso for healing because you must present a gift at the door to get in and one at the exit to get out. This tribe is governed totally by ritual. There are rituals for weight, breast size, and intercourse. Sex is a scheduled act and is considered taboo to discuss.

The Nacirema is a very ritualistic tribe, but they seem to thrive. Even with their masochistic ways, they are surviving and evolving. The use of magic appears to help them live. Of course, without much thought, it is easy to discern that the Nacirema Tribe is none other than modern…

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Example #5

In 1956 a professor from the University of Michigan, Horace Miner, wrote an article in The American Anthropologist that has become a mainstay of learning for anthropology students. Miner published the article to show a fictional exotic society called “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” as an example of how one’s own limited perspective might affect the perception of a foreign culture (Miner, 1956, p. 503).

The article uses subtle humor to make the reader more comfortable in examining cultural behaviors, physical appearance, and health as the reader soon discovers that the actual society being examined is American society. To the reader, the article begins to sound very familiar after each paragraph is…

For Miner, he was writing from his years of personal observation of American homes, but often the anthropologist is not already a member of the community to be studied and must develop a rapport within a community. This relationship must be created without being deceptive and creating a negative impression so that members of the community will act naturally and not suppress their habitual or instinctive reaction to life issues (Kawulich, 2005).

This method collects data not only from personal observation but also includes interviews, natural conversations, checklists, and surveys. The effective use of this method includes having a non-judgmental attitude, being aware of culture shock tendencies, wanting to learn more about others, and practicing good listening skills (Kawulich, 2005).

When the anthropologist properly explores the organized routines and ritualistic behaviors of the group, they become becomes a part of the community and report the information about how the group is operating from a holistic understanding of the viewed events.

Anthropologists also have various theories to help support and direct a study. One such theory attributed to Alfred Radcliffe Brown of Great Britain is known as structural functionalism (Clure, 2011). The primary focus of structural functionalism theory is social structure rather than the biological relations of individuals in a culture. The social construction and levels of this theory…

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