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Sociologically speaking, what are your reflections on Reading # 8: Body Rituals among the Nacirema — The Nacirema people (written by Horace Miner) ? What are some of their rituals? Please quote from the Reading. (3 pts)

What do you learn from this exercise? Who are the Naciremas? (2 pts)

Can you apply cultural relativist point of view to this reading? why? Please quote from the textbook. (3 pts)

Reply to two other students if your agree or disagree or you want to add a though to it.(2pts)

1. It was very interesting to learn about the Nacirema people. It was so interesting how different their culture was from what we are used to. How the people visit the medicine men so that they can receive potions and charms and also how they went to see the holy-mouth-man were rituals that they did. The latipso ceremony was especially interesting. Horace Miner explains how it is like a hospital for them but the way he describes it has much ridicule and condescending attitude. He still admits that it actually seems to work better than he had thought. He writes, “The latipso ceremonies are so harsh that it is phenomenal that a fair proportion of the really sick natives who enter the temple ever recover” (Miner 90). It does not matter what Miner or anyone else thinks about it. The fact is that the Nacirema people believe in it and it somewhat works. This is where ethnocentrism and cultural relativism comes in.

The Naciremas, who live “in the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles,” were the subject of Horace Miner’s observations and the victims to his ethnocentric opinions (Miner 87). They were simply people who were living in ways that they believed was right. It was not the place of Miner to decide if their cultural was inferior. I learned from this exercise that even published papers can be display ethnocentrism and that not all sociologists practice cultural relativism.

Miner fails to utilize the cultural relativist point of view in his report of the Nacirema people. Instead of presenting them without judgment, he makes it very obvious that he feels their cultural is inferior to our own. Our textbook states, “To counter our tendency to use our own culture as the standard by which we judge other cultures, we can practice cultural relativism; that is, we can try to understand a culture on its own terms” (Henslin 38). A sociologist should not let private opinions tamper with observations and definitely not make it so obvious in an official paper. The interesting thing was that as much as Miner thought the Naciremas were different from us, I found them to be very similar to us in certain ways. For example, Miner mentions how women with extra-large breasts get paid a lot of money for going to different villages and letting people stare at them (Miner 91). Miner makes this sound so primitive, but it is basically what we do in our culture. In our society, there are many people who make a lot of money just because people like to look at them. This is when I realized that Nacirema was American spelled backwards. It did not take much research to learn that Miner had written this to show how even our culture that we think is the norm, could be described in odd ways if ethnocentrism took hold and cultural relativism was not kept.

2. The Nacirema people have a very intricate system that works for them. The way they manage their rituals and their belief system is not one that would work for everyone. Yet it works just fine for them all. Some of their rituals consist of the mouth rite, they visit a holy mouth man, when they are ill they visit the medicine man that has an imposing temple also known as latipso. However, the visit to the “listener” is one that popped out to me the most. As it’s the least invasive of them all. The listener considered a witch doctor “ has the power to exorcise the devils that lodge in the heads of people who have been bewitched.””The patient simply tells the ‘listener’ all his troubles and fears beginning with the earliest difficulties he can remember.” (Minor 91)

The Nacirema’s are a “North American group that live in the territory between the Canadian Cree, the Yaqui and Tarahumare of Mexico, and the Carib and Arawak of the Antilles”. (Minor 87)Not much is known about their origin but what is known is that they have advanced the ideas of taking care of ones body to an extraordinary degree. They spend a lot of time, energy and money into following what their culture dictates. From a young age all of the Nacirema members are taught about their culture and what their culture consists of as far as rituals go. I learned from them that they perhaps look at the body beyond its appearance something that we do a lot. Their rituals may be a bit extreme for the most part. Yet the pain they acquire from such rituals doesn’t stop them to make sure they follow their culture.

I think that you can apply a cultural relativist point of view to this reading. Minor mentioned that there was a “practitioner, known as the ‘listener’.”(Minor 91) The listener in our culture would be the same a psychologist. “The memory displayed by the Nacirema in these exorcism sessions is truly remarkable. It is not uncommon for the patient to bemoan the rejection he felt upon being weaned as a babe, and a few individuals even see their troubles going back to the traumatic effects of their own birth.”(Miner 91) Those events that Miner mentions are the equivalent to us having sessions with our psychologist. We are also able look back at things that effected us at younger ages as the psychologist listens to us in our sessions.


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