Body Ritualamong The Nacirema

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Horace Miner
in Applying Anthropology
(2012:200-203)
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Eat & Drink
Sleep
Language &
Communication
Procreate
Clothing
Tools
Expel
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Food: You eat that?
Sleep: See “Slumber’s
Unexplored Landscape”
Language: That just sounds
like blah, blah, blah
Procreate: How can you
marry her?
Put some real clothes on
Tools: That’s a silly way to
do that
Expel: I can’t go there…
©2013, Jason Antrosio,
www.livinganthropologically.com
©2013, Jason Antrosio,
www.livinganthropologically.com
©2013, Jason Antrosio,
www.livinganthropologically.com
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Mouth obsession and teeth
(201)
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Gouging, sadism (201-202)
Face scraping (202)
Bake heads in ovens (202)
Latipso, keep going (202)
Shame, especially around
reproductive functions
(202)
Body issues and rituals
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“between the Canadian
Cree … and Mexico” (200)
Nacirema  American
Dentists
Shaving
Baking heads—from 1956
Latipso  Ospital
“going from village to
village and permitting the
natives to stare at them for
a fee” (202)
©2013, Jason Antrosio,
www.livinganthropologically.com
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Recent medical studies confirm importance of
placebo—or “nocebo”—effect
Ideal body form “is virtually outside the range of
human variation” (202)
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Barbies
and idealized male builds
What if Miner had seen tanning beds? Even
stranger than baking heads…
Miner’s main point: counter common
ethnocentrism with anthropology’s cultural
relativism
©2013, Jason Antrosio,
www.livinganthropologically.com
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All people are part of history and
change over time
All people have variation within group
People are interconnected
So when we read about others
Do not assume they are frozen in time
 Careful of over-generalizing assumptions
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Renato Rosaldo, Culture &
Truth (1989:52):
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“In retrospect, one wonders
why Miner’s article was taken
simply as a good-natured joke
rather than as a scathing
critique of ethnographic
discourse. Who could continue
to feel comfortable describing
other people in terms that
sound ludicrous when applied
to ourselves?”
©2013, Jason Antrosio,
www.livinganthropologically.com
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Miner’s cute story of we-areweird-to-them overlooks
history and power
Miner’s language
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“effaces the colonial encounter
through which we have
developed notions of ‘witch
doctors’ and ‘exotic rituals.’
Miner’s whimsical frame also
denies stratification and power
dynamics on the American end”
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Michaela di Leonardo, Exotics at
Home (1998:61)
©2013, Jason Antrosio,
www.livinganthropologically.com
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