My post on Saturday about Axel Leijonhufvud’s paper reminded a reader (OK, it was my mom) of the 1956 paper in American Anthropologist titled “Body Ritual among the Nacirema,” by Horace Mitchell Miner.
Nacirema culture is characterized by a highly developed market economy which has evolved in a rich natural habitat. While much of the people’s time is devoted to economic pursuits, a large part of the fruits of these labors and a considerable portion of the day are spent in ritual activity. The focus of this activity is the human body, the appearance and health of which loom as a dominant concern in the ethos of the people. While such a concern is certainly not unusual, its ceremonial aspects and associated philosophy are unique.