Horace Miner’s article references “attitudes about the body” and how it influences Nacirema society. Interestingly, he is describing American, which is Nacirema spelled backwards, customs or “ritual activity” from an outsider’s very bizarre view. It was meant to be an examination of practices of the Nacirema culture the way anthropologists examine other cultures around the world which may seem unusual or weird. The purpose of the article was not to demonstrate excessive human behavior, but to give another viewpoint of an unfamiliar civilization and how our perspective can affect our perception. Cultural practices are determined by the culture someone is a part of including our own practices.
1. Describe the 3 activities or behaviors seen in the culture that you found to be the strangest.
Shrine’s with a box or chest in the wall, to us a medicine cabinet; holy mouth men, to us dentists; herbalist, to us a pharmacist; small bundle of hog hairs and magical powders, to us toothbrush and tooth paste. I like the part “ritual ablution of the mouth for children to improve their moral fiber.” Which is washing a child’s mouth with soap for saying something bad. Miner’s interpretation about these rituals is truly outside the box. He makes the Nacirema’s behavior seem so excessive.
2. Has your response changed in any way after rereading the article? Explain.
On the first read I knew after the second paragraph he was talking about Americans, so I did not find the activities to be strange, I was fascinated by Miner’s unique way of describing the behaviors. On the second read I realized ethnocentric thinking causes us to use our cultural norms to make assumptions about other people’s cultures and customs.
3. This article was written in 1956. What valuable lesson does this article teach about diversity that was relevant then and is still relevant today?
Ethnocentric thinking is still relevant today. We evaluate people and cultures according to the standards of our own culture which causes us to make wrong assumptions. The article also exemplifies the difficulty in accepting diversity then and now. People’s perception of their physical appearance is skewed. They perform extreme rituals and practices to conform to social norms regarding their physical appearance and health, to look a certain way to gain acceptance in society and avoid looking old.