After reading the article by Horarce Miner, “Body Rituals among the Nacirema, I slowly started to understand that their beliefs and rituals could be compared to our beliefs and practices in the United States. Although we here in the US would view this tribe and their rituals as somewhat bizarre, our practices here in the US could also be considered the same by other cultures. The following are some of the key concepts that I will be focusing on,
Keywords: Culture, Cultural Relativism, Ethnocentrism and Qualitative Research Methodology.
A Common Connection with Nacirema
Schaefer tells us that culture “is the totality of learned, socially transmitted customs, knowledge, material objects and behavior.” Even though the beliefs and rituals of the Nacirema culture is much different from ours, we do have some so-called rituals that are much the same.
Enthocentrism and Cultural Relativism
Let’s take for example, the “shrine” that is called by some cultures in the US as the porcelain bowl or toilet. These objects are actually one in the same, however: here in our country we would thing that this tribes rituals with the “shrine” would be somewhat bizarre. By thinking this way, Schaefer states that “Denigrating other nations and cultures can enhance our feelings and belief that our way of life is superior.” This is called ethnocentrism. Just because the Nacirema tribe have a different way of looking at the functionality of the shrine, does not mean that this is not normal. According to Horace Miner, “the rites of the shrine are normally. discussed with children only during the period when they are being initiated into these mysteries.” This is the same as toilet training our children here in the US at a certain age. Schaefer states that cultural relativism “means viewing people’s behavior from the prospective of their own culture.” This seems like this is normal behavior amongst both of our cultures.
Let’s take a look at the “mouth-rite” of the Nacirema tribe. Horace Miner explains that “the Nacirema tribe have an almost pathological horror of and fascination with the mouth, the condition of which is believed to have supernatural influence on all social relationships.” We here in the US also have an obsession with our oral health. If we did not go to the dentist twice a year, there could be some serious consequences. Most of our culture look forward to going to the dentist, which in this article, is the same as the holy-mouth man. Look at all of the advertisements that we have on television about different toothpastes and mouthwashes to make sure that our teeth are perfect. Having bad breath and ugly teeth is disgusting in our culture as well as the Nacirema tribe. If you think about it, there are many similarities between our culture and the Nacirematribe. I believe that what was called “hog hairs” is really a toothbrush and the “magical powders” is toothpaste. Miner also references the “latipso” which is a place that treats the very sick. He goes on to say that the “latipso ceremonies are so harsh that it is phenomenal that a fair portion of the really sick natives who enter the temple ever recover.” Interpret that statement and what he is referring to is a hospital. Our hospital are for the very sick. He goes on to say that “the medicine men perform daily rituals, which involves discomfort and torture.” I am thinking the medicine men are doctors here in our society. What I found so fascinating and similar is what Miner goes on to say about a native’s stay in the temple. He states “With ritual precision, the vestals awaken their miserable charges each dawn and roll them about on their beds of pain while performing ablutions, I the formal movements of which the maidens are highly trained.” If anyone has ever been hospitalized in our nation, you could almost laugh at this. Yes, our wonderful maidens (nurses) do come into