Nacirema Culture A Review of the Literature Abstract Various anthropologists and sociologists have used the term Nacirema to examine aspects of the behavior and society of citizens of the United States of America. Nacirema offers a form of word play by spelling “American” backwards. This literature review will explain how “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” relates to ethnocentrism. Nacirema Culture A Review of the Literature “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” by (Miner, June 1956) describes Nacirema as a little-known tribe living in North America between Mexico and Canada.
Nacirema culture is characterized by a highly developed market economy which has evolved in a rich natural habitat. When first reading the paper it was a slight culture shock but after further reading I realized the paper was actually describing modern-day Americans. After I finished reading the paper I had a much better understanding of how other cultures see Americans and how they see us. Which would be an example of ethnocentrism; the tendency to assume that one’s own culture and way of life represents the norm or is superior to others.
In the paper Miner attempts to make us unwittingly use our cultural prejudices against our own societal mores. He chose not to directly reveal that the paper was about Americans in order to demonstrate people’s ethnocentric tendencies. Ultimately I believe Miner hoped to help his readers realize that, just like every other culture, Americans have plenty of cultural practices that when viewed objectively appear highly illogical and even ridiculous. Upon reaching this revelation, it follows that we should view the mores of other cultures with a renewed objectivity and understanding.
However, I believe it is crazy to think that we can ever completely purge ourselves of all cultural biases or ethnocentricity. From the time we are born we learn the “norms” of our society and we then use those “norms” to judge other sociological groups. Norms are an established standard of behavior maintained by society. These norms in the paper would be informal norms because they are rituals that are taught and generally understood but not precisely recorded.
An example of a norm in the paper would be the holy-mouth-man aka a dentist. It’s common in America to go to the dentist once or twice year but in other cultures they may look at it as unnecessary, a waste of money, or too painful. But as Americans we take great pride in our appearance and health so we go the extra mile to do what we can to make us look good. As I read about the Nacirema I was shocked by their body rituals until I realized they are rituals I have been taught and practice daily.
After re-reading I understood the aspects of the Nacirema culture including Medicine men (doctors, psychiatrists, and pharmacists), a latipso (hospital), a shrine (bathroom), and the mouth-rite ritual (brushing teeth). Things like going to the dentist, taking prescription drugs when we are sick, and going to the bathroom in private all seem like appropriate, “normal” behavior. Other things, such as a cultural obsession with women’s breast size, we might be more critical of and yet we still accept as “normal” behavior.
But how quickly our opinions are changed when the above mentioned practices are described in a slightly different way than we are familiar with and we are to believe that the society that practices them are not our own. Society Today It is easy to believe that Miner is writing about a society other than America because of the way that we are taught and the way that we learn. A piece such as “Body Ritual” reads as an anthropologist’s study of a “poorly understood” (Miner) people. In fact, it says it is just that, and it is.
What we don’t expect is for the name of the people described to deceive us. It is very important that it does, as it allows us to see our culture with an un-biased look, but we do believe that there is a group of people somewhere that are actually called “Nacirema”, and that they certainly aren’t us. In the end, while some were unable to relate the piece to American culture even after knowing that it was the intention of the paper to describe it, “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” can be read by most as an accurate description of American culture.
The language used and our own sense of what our culture is may make this initially difficult, but the sociological perspective and the ability to allow ourselves to see things from a different point of view make it eventually possible. For most, this perspective will need to be learned and may change the way the learner views everything, in regard to society, for the rest of their lives. References * Miner, M. H. (June 1956). Body Ritual among the Nacirema. American Antrhopologist, 503-507. *
Cite this Nacirema Culture
Nacirema Culture. (2016, Dec 06). Retrieved from https://graduateway.com/nacirema-culture/