Nacirema Medical Anthropology

Using the textbook Anthropology: What does it mean to be human? for Intro to Anthropology 2021 the conclusion of the course was to read about applying anthropology, specifically medical anthropology. In this course, I saved the classic “Body Ritual among the Nacirema” as an exercise for the final exam essay. I hoped to do a “Nacirema Medical Anthropology” experiment to check on how the main lessons of the course had worked.

Nacirema Medical Anthropology assignment

Imagine that you work in public health. The Nacirema people are experiencing a COVID-19 outbreak. Your co-workers know you took an anthropology course and once read about medical anthropology, so they have turned to you for help. Your job is to encourage the Nacirema adopt mask-wearing, distancing, and eventually become vaccinated. After doing some research, you find one anthropological study of the Nacirema from 1956 by the anthropologist Horace Miner. After reading it, please write up your report, answering these questions:

  1. How would you evaluate Horace Miner’s research? That is, using what you have learned about anthropological fieldwork techniques and ethnography, what are the strengths and weaknesses of Miner’s account? (Keep in mind that Miner is writing around the same time as Laura Bohannan’s “Shakespeare in the Bush” and Richard Lee’s “Eating Christmas in the Kalahari.”)
  2. What do you think would be the best approach to encourage mask-wearing, physical or social distancing, and vaccination among the Nacirema? What aspects of their culture might help in your efforts? What might be the obstacles? Do you think you will be successful?
  3. Through the textbook, articles, and films, this course has considered many examples of societies studied by anthropologists. Which people or society do the Nacirema most resemble and why?
  4. Miner’s article has become rather famous and is often read in Intro-to-Anthropology courses. Why? What is the main lesson Miner was trying to convey?