Interpreting Our Own Culture

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Aastha Mehta Interpretation of Culture Professor Heo September 27, 2009 Reflection Paper Horace Miner does a good job of stepping outside his own culture and avoiding the many blunders any insider to a culture is prone to when he writes this satire. He sees the Nacirema culture, his own culture, from an outsider's perspective using the culture's own standards, as he understands them, to describe their beliefs and practices. He avoids oversimplification and triteness by going to great pains to describe practices once common to us, in new and strange ways. This article indeed helps us to see ourselves as others might see us. Miner, however, does not do as well in avoiding ethnocentrism in this article. By applying several value judgments to Naceriman practices, he is crossing the line as an Anthropologist, and not exploring the fundamental question of why these practices are continued. Perhaps this is why it is a satire – not only is he describing our own culture in his writing, but he is stepping out of his position as anthropologist and commenting on the rituals as well. Even though Miner is writing a satire here, I believe that his work is filled with biases and cultural relativism. As we spoke in class last week, one cannot use cultural relativism to account for the differences between races, and can only use it to gage why practices make sense in the cultures that they are part of. For example, the ceremonies performed at the Latipso are among the most bizarre practices of the Nacirema. I did not originally understand why people would willingly go to a temple where so many people die. After further analysis I realized that the Latipso is a hospital, the medicine men are doctors, and the vestal maidens are nurses. To an outsider the hospital may seem like a place of death but from within the civilization it is considered a place for healing.
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