power of perspectives

Essay by suzychen1995College, UndergraduateA+, November 2014

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Suzy Chen


Rhetorical Analysis

ENGL1010 First Year Writing Seminar

The Power of Perspective: Viewing American Culture As an Outsider

American culture is a very self-conscious culture that emphasizes wealth and appearance. In the essay "Body Ritual among the Nacirema", published in American Anthropologist in June of 1956, anthropologist Horace Mitchell Miner describes American rituals from a unique point of view and satirizes American people's obsession with physical appearance (259). He holds a mirror to American society and pokes fun at the seemingly absurd yet most common behaviors of American people. However, Miner's main purpose of the essay is not to show the extremity of human behavior, but to illustrate the effect an outside perspective has on the understanding of a culture.

At the beginning of the essay, Miner exhibits his authority as a scholar of anthropology. Dr. Miner earned his doctorate from the University of Chicago in 1937 and became an assistant professor of sociology at the University of Michigan (259).

Miner's reliability can trick his audience to believe in the existence of the Nacirema tribe. Miner starts off his essay by saying, "The anthropologist has become so familiar with the diversity of ways in which different people behave in similar situations that he is not apt to be surprised by even the most exotic customs" (259). This opening statement sets a formal tone for the essay and creates a sense of superiority. Miner further enhances the existence of the "undescribed tribe" by presenting it as "an example of the extremes which human behavior can go" (259). According to Miner, the culture of Nacirema is "very poorly understood" and "little is known of their origin" (259), which explains why he has no insight into the logic behind their practices, assuming that their rituals are a result...