Body Ritual Among the Nacirema
Chapter 29 of the book focuses on Horace Miner’s article “Body Ritual Among the Nacirema.” The article discusses certain cultural and religious practices that the Nacirema engage in. Miner explores the manner with which anthropologists have become so insensitive to exotic cultures to the extent that even the most extreme of cultural practices do not raise eyebrows. The beliefs and practices that the Nacirema have, present an apt example of how extreme these practices can get. Miner proceeds to argue that the underlying principle behind the practices that the Nacirema engage in, is that the body is not only ugly, but that it prone to disease and debility, with these rituals or ceremonies key to preventing these problems. In line with this belief, each household normally has a shrine that is dedicated to achieving this purpose. Key to the practice of the ceremonies are charms, magical potions and charm boxes, with medicine men, witchdoctors and magicians. The chapter therefore, provides an overview of the cultural practices of the Nacirema, as well as the motivations behind them.
Laura Bohannan’s article “Shakespeare in the Bush,” is what is covered in chapter 30. Bohannan describes her trips to Tiv in West Africa and her observations of a family in which the tribe was headed by a chief, and a culture of storytelling was rife. When forced to tell a story, Bohannan adapts Shakespeare’s story to fit into the setting within which she finds herself, referring to the King as a chief and describing his ghost as an omen. All through the chapter, Bohannan seems to be demonstrating how cultural beliefs and practices can shape how an individual interprets events or occurrences in their lives.