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A Cultural Analysis: The Underlying Connections Between The Nacirema and Americans

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A Cultural Analysis: The Underlying Connections between the Nacirema and Americans

Although the Nacirema people may have peculiar rituals and foreign beliefs that most would deem as bizarre or strange, here in America we also have our own set of practices that may seem to be outside the norm by other cultures. In my opinion I believe Horace Miner's true purpose of writing this journal article was really a subliminal way to show how Americans are obsessed with their looks and will do just about anything to maintain them no matter at what cost. Also he describes behaviors of the Nacirema are similar to Americans who go to great lengths to acquire cabinets filled with various medications and make unnecessary visits to health care providers offices and hospitals that are not actually needed to achieve good health. It is very reasonable to understand that sometimes individuals truly do need certain medicines and medical and dental procedures that health care providers prescribe for related health issues. On the other hand some medicines and procedures are used to make individuals feel better about themselves but are not truly essential or necessary.

Who can really blame people for wanting to try these different methods when every other commercial on television is telling them that if people take a certain medicine that they will feel better or that a particular product or procedure will make them look more beautiful. These types of messages are always in our face, reinforced into our brains, all of the time. Sociologically, these ever-present messages are part of the American culture which reinforces an individual's behavior within the broader society. Due to the similarities between American and Nacirema societies, one would surmise that similar messages and behaviors exist.

In this paper I will use the hypothetical examples of the Nacirema people's rituals and beliefs and compare them to our own practices here in America. I will do this specifically by analyzing some of their rituals and then break them down into their true meaning as it relates to Americans. As I previously stated I believe Miner uses this article to demonstrate different

American practices and beliefs and their similarity to the Nacirema. By the end of my paper the reader will have a clearer understanding of how American thinking processes work compared to that of the Nacirema's way of life.

The first example is how the Nacirema spend a considerable portion of the day immersed in ritual activities when they are not devoted to economic pursuits. The article states that "the focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people" (Miner, p. 503). "The fundamental belief underlying the whole system appears to be that the human body is ugly and that its natural tendency is to debility and disease" (Miner, p. 503). Further it states that every household usually has one or more shrines devoted in the hope to avert these characteristics and are held privately, not as family ceremonies. Also these ceremonies are only discussed with children during "the period when they are being initiated into these mysteries" (Miner, p. 503).

The economy of the United States is the world's largest national economy. Our nominal GDP was estimated to be over $15 trillion in 2011, approximately a quarter of the nominal global GDP. Also in 2011, America was estimated to have a per capita GDP of $48,387, the 6th highest in the world, thus making us one of the world's wealthiest nations (Wikipedia, 2012). Similar to the Nacirema, they devote a large part of our daily activities to economic pursuits. While Americans are extremely busy with daily life they are still able to find a way to set aside a substantial amount of time in the pursuit of beautifying their personal appearances. The shrines Americans have in their household are bathrooms in which most cases there is more than one depending on one's financial situation. Throughout the course of a day Americans may find themselves staring endlessly into mirrors to check appearances or simply by brushing their hair or teeth on several occasions.

The fact of the matter is that Americans take pride and are judged by their daily appearance.



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