“Body Rituals among the Nacirema” is a document written by Mr. Horace Miner. Miner was a graduate of the University of Chicago, with a degree in anthropology. Throughout his life, Miner was dedicated to his studies ranging in anthropology to sociology. He was very interested in the study of anthropology, but Miner disagreed with the way that other cultures were represented.
He thought American anthropologists believed that the American culture was “normal” and, that the other studied cultures were misrepresented (Hoogland). Miner was convinced to prove otherwise. He wanted to prove to other anthropologists that to other cultures the American culture could be viewed as unusual.
In Miner’s document, “Body Rituals among the Nacirema,” he spoke of what would be considered strange rituals performed by the people of the tribe. The people in which he was describing was actually the American culture, hence the name that Miner referred to them as the Nacerima.the backwards spelling of American.
Miner went on to discuss some of the rituals in which we as Americans perform on an every say basis. Rather than describing the rituals in ways that sounded accustom to Americans, Miner instead created a more “primitive language”. The reason Miner wrote the essay was to allow the Americans to read it, and lead them to believe that they are in fact reading about a culture elsewhere. Miner accomplished his goal well.
Miner went on to describe the rituals performed by the Americans. He described our dentist visits, but rather referred to the doctor as a “holy-mouth-man.
” The people visited the holy-mouth-man twice a year to prevent the decay in the mouth. There were medicine men that were visited when a patient was sick. The jobs of the men were to cure the sick and ailing, but it came with a price. There were “listeners” or witch-doctors, who were there to listen to people who were having difficulties, and needed to seek help. Miner described each of these rituals in full detail. The dentist was said to be a sort of torture.
They were said to drill holes in the teeth, and stuff the patient’s mouths full of hog hairs. The medical doctors were described to have been dreaded by children. The children would refer to the latipso (backwards spelling of hospital) as a place of no return. They only treated those who had wealth and, were able to return the favor with a sort of gift. The listeners, or psychologists, were believed to be magical. They were described as to making people recall back to traumatizing events, including their own birth.
Things such as pregnancy were describe my Miner as to being altered by the moon, and magical drugs and potions by the women. The women were described as performing rituals to make their large breasts smaller and their small breasts larger. The women with the larger breasts were often able to go to other villages and were paid by the men to simply look at their breasts. With Miner descriptions, the women of American were actually made look shallow. Miner had such a creative way of altering sentences to throw the reader completely off track. When it was revealed that we were actually reading about the American culture, I was shocked.
Miner’s discussion of the Nacirema tribe was a statement of reverse psychology. Miner was simply creating a clear point. The intention of Horace Miner writing the document was to allow anthropologists to read about our very own American culture from a sort of reverse side. The anthropological audience was supposed to read the document and, believe that the tribe in which they were reading was “different.” In order to create this sort of illusion, Miner created a sort of language that in some ways threw the reader off track. While researching the intention of the document, I discovered that the reason for Miner to create such a story was to enable the intended audiences to view our society in a distant way, such as we view those studied afar.
It was Miner’s use of his “primitive language” (Jarrett Roth) that enabled us to believe that as an audience we were reading about another culture. In order to .