Body Rituals: What Unites the Nacirema with Africa?

An individual’s actions, behaviours and beliefs can be understood only in terms of the culture he exists in. Learn about the Nacirema ritual to know more.

Each culture has its unique patterns of behaviour. Sometimes the behaviour seems strange to representatives of other cultural entities. As an example, the culture of Nacirema is described in the famous study of Horace Miner. Miner focused on the intricate bodily rituals of Nacirema people – according to Westerners, very strange and exotic.

What is Nacirema?

Who are these Nacirema people and in which part of the world do they live? You will be able to answer this question and determine the described ritual if you say the word “Nacirema” back. Almost any habitual action will seem strange if it is taken out of context and not seen as an element of the specific way of life of these people. Hygienic rituals of the West are no more strange than, for example, in Africa, it is customary to knock out the front teeth for beauty, or the customs of those tribes of South America, whose representatives stick out their lips. using special plates. They find that it makes them more attractive. It would seem that what is Africa for?

However, African tribes use similar rituals. Usually, they do not consider their bodies ugly, but they want to become more beautiful, and therefore do various rituals with the body. In most cases, the result of the ritual serves as a talisman. For example, a pierced nose, ear, or other parts of the body. Studies of ancient tribes have shown that such a ritual was first used in ancient Africa. After reaching a certain age, children wore a leather belt on their heads, and as a person grew older, this belt grew into a person’s head, otherwise, it was removed and the head had an ovoid shape. Nacirema people have very interesting rituals. If you want to know more about them, you can read the nacirema culture essay. These free essays will help you better understand the culture of the Nacirema tribe compared to others.


At the heart of the entire system of beliefs of the Nacirema people is the belief that the human body is ugly and initially prone to disease and decrepitude. A person destined to have such a body can only rely on the operation of specific rituals and ceremonies. Each house has several cult objects specially designed for this purpose. The box contains amulets and various magical potions, which no member of the tribe can do without. Potions and amulets are usually made by several shamans, each specializing in a particular area.

Witch doctors are considered the most powerful of them, and their help should always be generously rewarded. However, the healers themselves do not give medicinal potions to their patients, but only determine their composition and write it down in some secret and ancient dialect. This adverb is understandable only to healers and collectors of medicinal herbs and roots, who, again for offerings and gifts, prepare the required potion.

In particular, there is a daily ritual. It is strictly adhered to by everyone. It includes specific manipulations of the oral cavity. However, even though these people are so caring for this body, ordinary people find this ritual disgusting. It is impossible to understand such actions and beliefs outside of the cultural whole of which they are a part. Every culture should be studied in terms of its meanings and values ​​- this is the key rule of sociology.


It is impossible to understand such actions and beliefs outside of the cultural whole of which they are a part. Every culture should be studied in terms of its meanings and values ​​- this is the key rule of sociology. People tend to avoid ethnocentrism as much as possible, that is, trying to evaluate a foreign culture by comparing it with their own. Since human cultures are very different from each other, it is not surprising that members of one culture often find the attitudes and behaviours adopted in another highly unsympathetic.

The example of the “cargo cult” that opens this chapter illustrates the difficulties involved in the interaction of two different cultures. A sociologist must be able to remove the blinkers of his own culture if he wants to see the life of other people in its true light.

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