Tuesday, April 12, 2016

Body Ritual of the Nacerima; Part A and B

Part A:

After reading the article by Horace Miner and have chosen five words that describe the population that he talks about. These five words are Nacerima, unusual, unique, private and pathological. I think that these words are very descriptive regarding this group of people.

  1. Nacerima:
I chose this word because it the tribe name of these people. Professor Linton is the first anthropologist to bring the attention of this population to other anthropologist. These groups of people are little known about and poorly understood. Actually, Miner's  purpose of this name "Nacerima", American spelled backwards, was to show that the common American behaviors and beliefs seem magical and silly.

    2. Unusual:

I chose this word because in Miner's article he portrays the Nacerima to be unusual in their rituals. They show unusual behaviors by having shrines in their houses that hold charms and magical potions. It is also unusual that this population have rituals by going to a witch doctor, holy-mouth-man and medicine man where they endure torture and manipulation. This type of tribe show very unusual behaviors and they have an unusual culture.

     3. Unique:

I chose this word because the Nacerima culture is characterized as being unique. The ceremonial aspects affiliated are very different. The way that we look at other cultures as if they are really strange, exotic and unique. The Nacerima don't look at themselves as being unique but only normal, other cultures are weird and strange.

   4. Private:

I chose this word because the Nacerima show rituals of being very private. For example, when it comes to their shrine box. Most families have at least one shrine box in their home and the ceremonies are private and secret. The shrine boxes are private because it holds many magical potions that are very important to the Nacerima people and each magical potion is private to each one person.

    5. Pathological:

I chose this word because the Nacerima people have a "pathological horror" when it comes to the holy-mouth-men. They are fascinated with their mouths and have to be or they won't gain friends or relationships with the opposite sex. This population is obsessed with their mouth and they have a habitual ritual to see these holy-mouth-men twice a year. Some of the Nacerima's are pathological when it comes to their rituals and ceremonies.

Part B:

1. The words I chose again were; Nacerima, unusual, unique, private and pathological. As an American, I feel that my five descriptive words could identify with most groups of people. We are all unusual, unique, private and pathological in some way. We are all the same species but just have different cultures based upon how we were raised and in different areas of the world. I feel like I chose good descriptive words because no matter where someone comes from they can relate in some way.

2. Based on my choices I believe that they do exhibit some ethnocentrism. For instance, the words unusual and pathological seem to be bias. From someone Else's point of view that might be true because they have never seen our type of culture, therefore they would be judgmental or not understanding of how the American culture does certain things. There are human differences in behavior, rituals, and relationships but that does not mean that we are the only ones that are right. The focus is not on just the human behavior but an experience in different cultures and to learn more about them.

3. Instead of using the word unusual, I would rather use the word unknown because it may not be unusual to most other cultures just unusual to us because we have not experienced their behaviors or rituals before. For the word, pathological, I would rather use the word habitual. When a population is so used to certain "rituals", like going to the dentist, we have grown up on that and that is what we are used to. We go to the "holy-mouth-man" because we feel it is necessary to do that. Other cultures might have other ways to clean their mouth but that is how the "Nacerimas" do it.

4. It is important that we do not judge other cultures because we are all the same species and it helps us learn about the adaptation and evolution of humans.We should study the patterns of our behavior and feelings to understand every kind of society as a whole. Thus in turn we will be able to socialize with people all over the world and experience the manifestations of other cultures. We would grow as a species if we learned not to be bias or critical of other cultures around the world. I do think it is possible for anthropologists to avoid personal cultural bias if they did fieldwork as a cultural anthropologist doing ethnography and ethnology as their study for choice. That was they could experience different cultures on front ground and learn to better understand their behaviors so that they would not be bias.


  1. Five submissions noted and points awarded. Full comments and score will be posted after Part B is submitted.

  2. Keep in mind that words that describe will be adjectives. This works for most of your word choices, but "Nacerima" is not an adjective, but a group of people, so this doesn't really help describe them.

    I agree that some of your words avoid the problem of bias because they could describe all cultures (unusual, unique and private), but then how does this specifically define the Nacerima (or "Americans" as it turns out)? If you had to define the Nacerima themselves, that distinquish them from other cultures, how would you describe them?

    Not sure what to think about the word "pathological". Could that arise from your incomplete understanding of their behavioral practices rather than them actually being pathological? Now that you understand that the "holy mouth men" are actually dentists and understand the benefits of dental hygiene, do you still think this accurately defines this population?

    For section two, while I think that all cultures are "unusual" in their own way, I do agree with your general point that there is no one right way to do something.

    "The focus is not on just the human behavior but an experience in different cultures and to learn more about them."

    Cultural anthropology goes beyond just experiencing and learning about other cultures. It seeks to understand and explain why cultures are the way they are (though there are some anthropologists who are purely descriptive).

    Good discussion on alternative words.

    Good explanation on the benefits of avoiding ethnocentrism in anthropology. I suggest that it is not realistic to suggest that anthropologists can avoid ethnocentrism. Unfortunately, cultural anthropologists are human and subject to human error. They can strive to avoid bias but it is unrealistic to assume any could actually achieve that level of perceptive perfection.

  3. Hello Julianne!

    I agree that the Nacerima people are unique. This was a good descriptive, unbiased word to describe the Nacerima people. Their cultural practices are unique. However, unusual would be considered a bias adjective to describe them. Ethnocentrism has a way of limiting our perception of other cultures. Unusual could be considered an insult to the Nacerima people and their way of life. A better word to have described them was unique.

  4. Hello Julianne, very spectacle of you to figure out that "Nacerima" was american spelled backwards. I agree with you that most of your words avoid a ethnocentrism view. Your words did a good job describing the tribe, and still keeping a unbiased opinion. Although one words that seems to stray away was "Pathological" this word implies that they fear disease. I personally think you could have chosen a word that wasn't as specific, and that rushed to judgement about there ideals without the full understanding. Your alternate word for "Pathological" was a good switch and described it just as well without a bias. All in all I absolutely agree with your views on this assignment. Part B truly showed what you learned and applied it to your views about the culture with little to none biased.