Culture is the way of life of a social group. From the sociological aspect, culture has five key elements that well describe a people’s ways of thinking and action. The elements include beliefs, norms, values, symbols, and language. Beliefs are avowals that a social group hold to be true.
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Symbols, on its aspect, are things that a particular group of people believes to carry specific meanings. From Horace Miner’s article, the Nacirema had shrines in all homes and special charm boxes on the walls of the shrines. In addition, there was a temple where medicine men could treat extremely sick patients. Other symbolic objects were prods, awl, cherry tree and other magical materials. Cultural relativism holds that civilization or way of life is not something complete, but it is relative with the context in which it is practiced.
This sociological concept has it that there is no right or wrong practices. The rightness or wrongness depends on a social group that practices it.
Therefore, an act that is unethical in one ethnic group can be ethical in another ethnic group. There is no way of life that is absolute in itself. For example, the people of Nacirema performed pathological horrors on their mouths a way of improving moral fibers, preventing teeth decay, and making them develop strong relationships with their friend. The context of right and wrong relies on a specific culture.
Ethnocentrism is the inclination of believing that the cultural practices of an ethnic group are extremely significant and comparison of other social group’s cultures is done with respect to the former. An ethnocentric person believes that his/her way of life is the best and goes on to judge other cultures relative to his/her own culture. The concept of ethnocentrism assists in distinguishing between one’s cultures from others. Lastly, qualitative research methodology is a research method that answers questions like ‘why’, ‘how’ and ‘what’.
Professor Linton’s research on the Body Ritual among the Nacirema qualifies to be qualitative in nature since it tries to answer the question why the Nacirema behaved the way they did in the past. The essay discusses the belief systems and practices of the Nacirema in light to the sociological aspects of culture, cultural relativism, and ethnocentrism. Moreover, it will expound on the qualitative research methodology as used in acquiring information about the Nacirema.
Anthropologists have come to unearth the culture of the Nacirema. First, this group believed that Notgnihsaw discovered the nation in which they lived. The group focuses their ritual activities on the human body where they believe that the body is ugly hence should be transformed through the rituals.
The shrine is an important symbol in among the Nacirema such that all families must have at least one. In the shrines, a chest is built on the wall to help in storing charms that people have used. The Nacirema believes that medicine men are the most powerful magical practitioners. In addition, the Nacirema conducts a holy-mouth rite at least once in a year. The entire process involves inserting magical materials using augers, prods, and probes.
The cultural relativism is evident in this context given that the process of gouging of teeth is painful, but the Nacirema continues to practice the act. Medicine men could prick the bodies of the sick using an awl. Moreover, the difficult situation involved in mouth rite reveals the ethnocentric nature of the community since they believe that the culture is the best and continues to use it on its people.
Moreover, the Nacirema strips sick people when they get into the temples for treatment. Notably, medicine men manipulate, scrutinize, and prod the bodies of female patients. Witch doctors had the power to exorcise the devils and curses that parents could have placed on their children. The Nacirema also practiced other rites where females with large or small breasts could change the size of their breasts. Markedly, those with extra hyperactive mammary developments could make money by displaying them to different villages.
The ethnocentrism concept is visible in the manner in which sick individuals continued to seek treatment from the temple even though the conditions that they were undergoing reduced their chances of living again. In the present world, treatment process is not intended to be ruthless and cruel and this practice among the Nacirema is barbaric in this context. Worst still, temple guardians could not admit any sick person before he/she pays rich gifts to the custodians.
This act was mandatory even if the patient was rich or poor. The Nacirema respected and followed these practices, as the people believed that they were the best in their context. Even though the Nacirema rituals on the body were crude, backward, and painful, the people did not complain of any mistreatment. They had strong beliefs in their cultures and had to respect them in order to minimize conflicts among themselves.
The qualitative research methodology has assisted anthropologists in unearthing the diverse practices of the Nacirema. For example, the articles has revealed why the Nacirema engaged in daily mouth rites, built shrines and charm boxes on their walls, did not dispose charms and why they continued to visit temples amidst the painful and embarrassing ordeals in the process.
The article also explains how the Nacirema conducts some rituals like the mouth rite, a patient’s treatment at the temples, and how families enter shrine rooms to mix different components of holy water. Evidently, the sociological aspect has revealed the diverse practices of the Nacirema in the context of what makes them respect the entire process.