Body Rituals Among the Nacirema
“Body Rituals Among the Nacirema, “ by Horace Miner, is an essay written about the Nacirema, or American people, from an outsider’s perspective. Miner gives an insight on the Nacireman people, which he describes in his essay as an unknown tribe, and the completing of the Nacireman’s magical beliefs and practices, which involve daily, involuntary body rituals that cause much pain and discomfort. Miner shows how an outsider’s perspective can affect the way a culture is seen. In his essay, Miner uses a tone that is formal and unbiased, which happens to be humorous at the same time.
Miner’s thesis is clear, he is simply showing the reader of these practices. It is understandable that Miner is speaking of a strange culture with rituals that are strange and unheard of. The territory that Miner is referring to in his essay, the one that lies between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles, is America. Nacirema is American spelled backwards. Miner describes the Nacirema, or American culture as being “a highly developed market economy which has evolved in a rich natural habitat. He explains that every household as a shrine, in which they perform their daily body rituals in hopes to prevent illness.
This is where Miner first begins to explain and give examples about the strange culture. This shrine that Miner refers to is the bathroom where bathing and excretion, along with other rituals, take place and the chest in the wall that carries the charms and magical potions, are the medicine cabinet and the medicine. This shrine that Miner refers to is a metamorphic statement.
Miner then talks about health care professionals: refers to dentists as holy-mouth-men who work on tooth decay, and doctors as medicine men, who work at the latipsoh, which is hospital backwards, and “the listeners, a. k. a. psychologists. Miner’s choice of previously stated words add a bit of humor to the story and might make it more confusing for writers that have not yet figured out that Nacirema is America. Also, these examples that he chose to provide give a reader an insight on the unknown tribe and their daily “rituals. Miner goes on to describe the ovens that women bake their heads in are the old school hair dryers that are used at salons. Miner uses great word choice throughout his essay and although some words are unclear, such as those spelled backwards, most of Miner’s essay is clear and very understandable for any reader.
Towards the end of his essay Miner describes intercourse and methods of protection to prevent pregnancy. Miner states, “Efforts are made to avoid pregnancy by the use of magical materials or by limiting intercourse to certain phases of the moon. This example that Miner provides is excellent because it gives you insight on method, which almost sounds like a cultural myth, which the Nacireman culture practice for safe sex. Miner is very descriptive in his essay, as you see with the women and old-school hair driers and the medicine cabinets. With the other information Miner provides about the doctors, nurses, hospitals, and medicines, it is evident the Nacireman people get sick, go to the doctor or hospital, end up using the medication twice, and then it stays in the medicine cabinet for a very long time.
He gives the reader more than enough information to paint a vivid and bold picture of what he is talking about. The way Miner presents his findings of these rituals and the instruments used in these everyday body rituals is very unique. Writing from an outsider perspective, he finds these rituals uncommon and essentially unheard of. He portrays the Nacireman culture and being very strange. Miner’s introduction may seem a bit confusing and may not be clear to the reader at first but it makes the reader curious and want to continue on.
As the reader catches, the essay seems to have a great sentence structure. The words and sentences flow freely throughout the essay, making it enjoyable. Everything fell into place where it should be. Seeing the daily brushing of the teeth or the shaving of the face as a ritual seems about right because essentially that’s what it is It seems as though Americans are pressured by society to feel pretty (both men and women, perhaps by the media, which results in these beautifying, daily rituals.
The purpose of Miner’s article was to explain the realism of the Nacirema culture. It is evident that Miner is criticizing the American culture and is showing that they do daily “rituals” to improve their outer appearance as opposed to improving their inner being. Even if Nacirema isn’t apparent to you in the beginning, there are signs throughout the story that Miner is talking about the American culture.
By demonstrating and introducing the daily body rituals of the Nacirema, whether they are painful or pleasurable, nd describe American customs, Miner was able to show us the good, bad, and the ugly of the culture from an outside perspective. After reading Miner’s essay, the reader may have different opinions of the Nacireman culture and may even see them as “stuck-up” for having all of these unnecessary rituals that most other cultures do not perform, especially on a daily basis. Overall, Miner did a fantastic job on his essay. The time period matched the language that Miner used, which was very clear.