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Essay on Body Ritual Among the Nacirema

3 pages
666 words
Sewanee University of the South
Type of paper: 
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Community rituals are specific and observable behaviors commonly exhibited by all known communities around the world. Many communities express their cultures and religious beliefs through rituals that define and describe their tradition. An essential aspect of community rituals is exhibited in its symbolic act that is structured on arbitrary rules passed on through generations. Scholars extensively agree that community rituals are the evolutionary hypothesis that explains the behavior of a particular group of related organisms such as human societies (Carter, 2015). In essence, rituals are sacred symbolic acts that represent specific societal attitudes or behaviors. As such, rituals form a critical part of a communitys tradition in addition to strengthening the foundation and structure of a society (Carter, 2015). Majority of communities have different rituals which range from mythological re-enactment rituals to rites of passage. For example, body ritual among the Nacirema community illustrates assigned roles and shared beliefs and values, performed regularly and binds people together.

While a modern and developed market economy characterizes the Nacirema community, the community members spend a significant portion of their time and resources in ritual activities, particularly the human body. Rituals performed by the Nacirema community highlight the day to day life activities and events of the community members. To this community, the daily body rituals are an obsession aimed at improving the out way of life and self-image (Miner, 2018). From the communitys perspective, the human body is naturally inferior and susceptible to diseases and disability. Also, the community holds a common belief that the human body is naturally ugly. Therefore, the body rituals performed among the community members are aimed at averting such characteristics. For example, the Nacirema community devotes much of their time and resources to a daily mouth-rite body ritual. The mouth-rite ritual is sacred and serves the purpose of improving self-confidence and physical appearance. Ideally, decayed teeth disrupt social lives as well as damaging social relationships. Also, the Nacirema community carries out a ritual involving specific varieties of blessed water. Every household is described to contain a shrine room where family members are expected to cleanse themselves on a daily basis. In fact, the ritual is described as the rite of ablution which suggests the importance of the ritual as a ceremonial activity (Miner, 2018). This practice strikes as a bizarre routine body ritual when interpreted from a strangers point of view.

The research study on the Nacirema body rituals reflects a study conducted using participant observation. Miners article, Body Ritual among the Nacirema indicates cumulative analysis of fieldwork observation from recorded raw data. As research involving cultural studies, the scientific inquiry requires close familiarity with the target study group to understand their immediate cultural environment over a particular period. This form of data collection enables the researcher to acquire specific information through systematic and continuous observation.

Cultural beliefs and practices among the Nacerima society revolve around the perception that a human body naturally prone to illnesses and disfiguration. Notably, the human body, physical appearance as well as health are an integral part of their lives. Both rich and poor are accustomed to regular body rituals which, according to them, add value to their lives. As a result, a significant part of their lives and resources is devoted to body rituals and customs aimed at enhancing their bodies and consequently, their lives (Miner, 2018). In essence, the Nacirema cultural beliefs are based entirely on a perception of strange rituals and physical appearance. An essential aspect of this culture is that most of the body rituals are performed privately whereas some such as the functioning of the human body are handled by medicine men.


Carter, S. (2015). A response to Horace Miners Body Ritual Among the Nacirema." [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jan. 2018].

Miner, H. (2018). Miner's "Body Ritual among the Nacirema." [online] Available at: [Accessed 13 Jan. 2018].

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