Power Of Perspectives Essay

1405 words - 6 pages

6Suzy Chen10/14/14Rhetorical AnalysisENGL1010 First Year Writing SeminarThe Power of Perspective: Viewing American Culture As an OutsiderAmerican 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 of belief in superstition and magic. Miner successfully covers up the conspicuous similarity between the rituals described in the essay and American cultures by creating an illusion that the rituals discussed in the essay are indeed existent in a mysterious tribe. Not unlike the American culture, the Nacirema culture pays special attention to the economy and body-focused rituals that are performed to keep one looking pleasing to other people (260). Miner purposefully leads his readers to the assumption that the essay is an informative paper written by an anthropologist who is searching for something out of the ordinary. At the first glance, the readers may mistakenly think the essay intends to talk about the peculiar customs of a tribe in North America, but the essay is actually satirizing the American society that is obsessed with appearance and attractiveness.The distorted information that the readers take in makes the essay effective. Miner's usage of the third person in the essay further generates a false distance between the reader and the tribe and makes the customs seem ridiculous. Miner describes the "tribe" as a "North American...

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