The dictionary defines an Anthropologist as a person that studies human beings and their ancestors through time and space and in relation to physical character, environmental and social relations, and culture (Webster 2011). I am not claiming to be an Anthropologist however, from my viewpoint, I am not sure if I am capable of grasping my mind around the concept that “the body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease” explained, (“Horace Miner”, 2005).
Unfortunately, the Nacirema people believe that this statement is true based on their culture and their belief system. The Nacirema has a rich and an untraceable culture and practice of ritual system that is not common to Americans. In fact their true origins are very mythical. The Nacirema’s economic society has an inspiring marketplace, which delivers many goods and produce however, the Nacirema also promotes two unique social classes, one of great wealth and the other poor. Regrettably from my thought process, a large portion of this lifestyle – the Nacirema practice rituals that I find to be quiet alarming.
I am in no way judging the Nacirema people although, I would like to offer my perspective in one of two ways, the first by identifying one of their ritual/customs and the other defining what that ritual means to me along with our similarities. During the readings of this case study, Body Ritual Among the Nacirema, my heart went out to these people and the more I read the article I compared their experiences to my cultural experiences. For each paragraph that I read in the beginning, I placed side notes to describe the Nacirema practices that were possibly similar to my culture.
For example: the Nacirema people go to a person for what they term as the ‘holy-mouth-man’. I have compared this to that of a dentist, that I have to visit at least every six months. The first encounter I remember as a child going to the dentist about the age of four was very frightening. The dentist ask you to sit down in the chair, you look up in to this shining light, and if you know anything about God, one may tend to believe that the dentist is the holy-mouth-man because one may have now seen God as one prays for no feelings of pain.
Miner (1956) explains that some of the tools that are used by these holy-mouth-men included: an auger, awls, probes and prods. In my opinion, the names of these tools may not be exact, however when used by a dentist those tools are still probed into ones mouth; the tools still have a horrifying look; and finally at the end of the appointment, one may leave feeling like they have had a form of exorcism! In other words, similar actions when compared to dental procedures such as their rituals produce magical powers if the thesis is correct.
Additionally during my reading and when counted, there were about 16 ritualistic practices that the Nacirema people partook in. My second perspective stems from the example of: ‘the listener’. What I find similar is that individuals here in America visit Psychiatrist when one has feelings of depression that is too burdensome to overcome or even too much to bare. While others may have suicidal tendencies in which case, the Psychiatrist prescribes medication.
In either case, my perception is that in no way are we much different than the Nacirema. I believe in some malicious way that Horace Miner was trying to down play, a culture who during that time in 1956, were trying to define, find or discover themselves. Conclusion After extended research Robert Jones (1980) explained, that it was the Tsigoloicos clan that Miner was describing, however these people were more spiritual based and did not have any of the ritual practices that Miner described.
In Jones findings, “the ancestral spirit, therefore, is above all and it is just a symbol” (“Myth & Symbol…” 1980). My question is, where was Miner getting his information and during that time what was he trying to prove? Needless to say, we are all creatures that will go through an evolutionary process. Furthermore, with internet moving with the speed of light, we shall all discover new cultures and advancements that will promote behavior changes, new cultural awareness as well as similarities. My question is, was this difficult for Miner to accept?
In conclusion I would like to point out that, Ellin (2008) explained that when Horace Miner in 1956, was using hyperbole as well as rhetorical misreading to defamiliarized his own culture in this essay Body ritual among the Nacirema. “Nacirema is American spelled backwards”. He exposed an obsession with the body that contributed to masochistic tendencies including annual visit to ‘holy men (dentist); and weekly head-baking by women (using hair dryers); lacerating the face with sharp instrument by men (shaving); and he iscusses the ritual fast to make fat people thin” (“Life support: Nacirema redux”). Through this entire scenario, my perspective is that Miner was not prepared for change, growth nor evolution.