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Horace Miner's Body Ritual among the Nacirema - Essay Example

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The paper analyzes a sociological aspect of Horace Miner’s “Body Ritual among the Nacirema”. A profound form of ethnocentrism has been used by Horace Miner in his sardonic paper Body Ritual among the Nacirema. All cultures, including America, assume that they are unique and superior…
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Horace Miners Body Ritual among the Nacirema
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Horace Miner's Body Ritual among the Nacirema

This paper illustrates that from the point of view of sociology and Horace Miner, no culture is unique. America is exceptional in several ways but a lot of its distinctive attributes are not pleasing, and this is what Horace Miner is trying to prove in his above-mentioned essay. Although doctors in developed societies usually claim to perform a kind of medical tradition independent of politics and religion, in truth their practices are convolutedly linked to these social life domains. Horace Miner defies and satirically analyzes the ethnocentric perspective of North America by illustrating, metaphorically, that American cultural practices are as bizarre as those of rudimentary preindustrial cultures. Horace Miner describes vividly the Nacirema’s mouth rituals with the intention of demonstrating the traditional rules behind the cultural narrative that guided the theme of intellectuals describing the cultural practices of other societies: “The daily body ritual performed by everyone includes a mouth rite. Despite the fact that these people are so punctilious about the care of the mouth, this rite involves a practice which strikes the uninitiated stranger as revolting. It was reported to me that the ritual consists of inserting a small bundle of hog hairs into the mouth, along with certain magical powders, and then moving the bundle in a highly formalized series of gestures”. The daily habit of cleaning the mouth or brushing the teeth is raised to the domain of magic. This passage shows how outside observers view Nacirema’s obsession with the mouth....
Emile Durkheim, a proponent of the structural-functional theory, argued that rituals reinforce and maintain social order, values, and roles. Because rituals promote or strengthen these values and roles, they encourage social unity or solidarity (Dillon, 2009). Nevertheless, the key idea is that in order to appreciate other cultures, one should think outside America’s tradition of understanding or interpreting things. There are proofs that America is not able to resolves its biggest problems or issues, which put its ethnocentric assumptions into question. American culture is multifaceted and conflicting. Horace Miner illustrates the risky rituals that the American people practice, the emphasis of which is the obsession with the human body. It highlights the point that what they are doing is merely to enhance their appearances which are in fact needless. He also mentions other features of American culture, such as chauvinism or gender discrimination in medicine; his focus on individualism; hierarchies among the social functions of medical authorities; and social classes. But the major argument of Horace Miner is that Americans are predisposed to overemphasize or venerate American culture and to place its origin and power outside human control. To view it in an objective and unbiased manner requires applying the interactionist, the conflict, and the functionalist theories. Interactionists focus on the individual, who, by interrelating with other people, preserves, assimilates, and builds culture (Dillon, 2009). The interaction among the people of Nacirema, particularly their elaborate rituals and network of specialists, creates, strengthens, and sustains their most ‘exotic’ cultural practices. More ... Read More
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