I initially found “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema” to be amusing, especially upon realizing (with a little help from Wikipedia) that “Nacirema” is “American” spelled backwards and the hero “Notgnihsaw” is really “Washington. ” However, I couldn’t help but to be a little put off by Miners mocking approach even if it was written as an anthropological satire. Perhaps this was Miners point, but I felt that one could turn any custom or ritual upon its head with the right amount of sarcasm and exaggeration.
Important and respectable social customs and patterns like bi-annual dental visits and considering using the bathroom as a private activity are not amusing nor extreme and as a 21st century “Nacirema,” I didn’t appreciate the mocking tone Miner takes in his satire. Would Miner rather a world with no dentists, doctors, pharmacies, hospitals, psychiatrists, or bathrooms? Perhaps he’d rather a world in which he did not feel bound to brush his teeth twice a day? What I have learned from this exercise is that anyone unfamiliar to any other cultural customs can easily ridicule or make it into a satire as Miners did in his writing.
I suppose I could say I have learned there’s good reason not to even attempt writing an anthropological paper in a satirical way because you can easily reduce another culture’s important rituals into what you feel they are to you rather than what they are to the persons living within that culture. Everything mentioned by Miner in a satirical way has good reason to those within the culture.
I suppose I have also learned that one cannot judge or even walk into another culture with the same mind that has been accustomed to another culture without understanding and appreciating the significance of their “curious practices” to those individuals. .