performed making them stand out from another culture. This paper willreview Nacirema subculture as one of the outstanding cultures in theNorthern part of America. The Nacirema people are described as peoplewho have unusual cultural aspects making them an interesting group ofpeople to observe study and describe. The extremity of theirpractices makes it intriguing to explore the culture with an aim ofunraveling what underlies in it and how extreme human behavior cango. According to Miner (503), Nacirema people are a North Americangroup inhabiting the territory between Canadian Cree, the Carib,Tarahumare Mexico and Arawak of the Antilles. Little literatureexists on their origin apart from the fact that they came from theeast. The mythology of Nacirema people explains the founding fatherof their nation as a famous hero named Notgnihsaw. He was known forhis feats of strength like chopping down a cherry tree and throwing apiece of wampum across the river (Miner 503).
The Nacirema culture has evolved in a rich natural habitat and ischaracterized by a highly developed economy. Despite the fact thatmost people from this culture spend their time in pursuit of theireconomy, a good percentage also spent their time performing ritualactivities. Those who focus on the rituals draw their interest in thehuman body, its health and physical appearance concerning certainbeliefs. The ceremonial aspects of the rituals make it unusual andgive it a unique philosophy. According to facing the future (2) themain belief underlying this ritual is the fact that the human body isugly and it has natural tendency to weakness and diseases. To avertsuch characteristics it is important for rituals to be performed. TheNacirema people value the ritual and every household has shrinesbuilt for that purpose.
Besides the shrines, another interesting ritual is the involuntaryamputation. While observing people from the Nacirema culture, Inoticed that most of them have a distinct practice of irreversiblebody modification. This part of rituals stands out and is voluntaryor can be consented to by individuals. The forced amputation ritualis a rite of passage that is practiced widely by parents who feelthat they have the right to decide whether parts of their newbornbabies should be amputated or not. According to Beer (1) medicine menusually perform the unusual if not weird, scary ritual a few minutesafter a child is born. After birth, the baby is taken away from itsmother to a secluded place where she will not be able to hear theshrieking cry of her child. Its arms and legs are tied to avoid anymovement during the painful procedure. Once tied the amputation of abody part begins as a healthy part of the baby’s body is removedand thrown away.
The procedure, which is termed as a taboo by most societies, plays arole in reminding the Nacirema people that despite the difficultiesthat come with rituals, the benefits of rites show commitment to theculture. According to the Nacirema people, females are born flawlessand perfect without any fault on their bodies. Males are however saidto be flawed requiring to go through the involuntary amputation frombirth to live a healthy life (Nanda and Richard 4). The male bodiesare unclean and need amputation to live healthy lives. If theprocedure fails to take place at birth, it has to be performed laterthough that rarely happens. However, children whose fathers have gonethrough the rite of passage, believe in letting their sons go throughthe same procedure otherwise the child may suffer from serious healthcomplications like mental instability. When the child realizes thatthey have a body part that their father does not have, they becomementally disturbed asserts Beer (1). Men whose parents fail to letthem go through the procedure subject their children to a lifetime ofsocial seclusion and rejection. Their male peers who have gonethrough the ritual belittle them and hold no respect for them. Theymake fun of them while some women from this community consider menwho have not gone through the rite as incompetent, unhealthy andabnormal. Some women claim to be interested in men who have gonethrough the rite of passage only rejecting those who did not gothrough it.
Clearly, the rite of passage remains critical for men and women inNacirema community. Medicine men are quick to judge any man whovisits them without having gone through the rite of passage. Theybelieve that those who have not gone through the ritual are unhealthyand vulnerable to diseases as compared to those who have already gonethrough them asserts Ksenychand David (53). For Nacirema mothers, it is alwayspainful seeing a little child go through the pain of amputation.Those who do not want the rite performed on their children however,the fathers are left to decide about the importance of having thepart or removing it. She reasons that the father knows best whathealth benefits or health challenges he has lived with without thebody part and thus should decide about the ritual performance ontheir child.
Despite the fact that it is emotionally painful for the men to admitthat they have lived without a part of their body which was removedwhile they were young without consent, they still hang on to theculture (Nanda and Richard 4). The men always want the same ritual tobe performed on their young boys to complete their circle and nothave one person who stands out of their custom. They give reassuringreasons as to why the amputation should take place citing healthbenefits and leaving the medicine man to do the rest(Ksenych and David 53).
Recent studies have however revealed that medicine men no longerbelieve that the ritual has any connection with health benefits.Though rarely mentioned to avoid making those who have gone throughthe ritual feel uncomfortable, the truth is that, it is a painfulritual with no known health reasons asserts Beer (1). The medicinemen feel that they have no control of the rite as they cannot performit without the parents consent. The parents thus have a higherobligation and upper hand in instructing the medicine man to performthe procedure. The decision to amputate the child does not take intoconsideration what the child feels about the procedure. Factors likethe future of the child are ignored and the rights of the child inthis ritual are not given a chance.
In conclusion, different societies practice unique rituals and thatis what makes them stand out. The Nacirema however, have a strikingritual that seems painful and ongoing not giving the child anopportunity to decide what they want but just including them in theprocess. The amputation process that is termed as a health benefitperformed by medicine men mostly affects men.
Beer, Todd. Nacirema: Updating a classic to see your own cultureas an outsider, 2014 1 retrieved from, sociology tool box
Ksenych,Edward, and David Liu. Conflict,Order and Action: Readings in Sociology.Toronto, Ont: Canadian Scholars` Press, 2001. Internet resource.
Miner, Horace, ‘Body Ritual Among the Nacirema”, AmericanAnthropologist Magazine 58(3), 1956, pp. 503–7
Nanda,Serena, and Richard L. Warms. CulturalAnthropology.Belmont, CA: Wadsworth Cengage, 2011. Print.