Kitchens of the Nacirema

angie_diyOctober 18, 2012

In his classic anthropological article, Horace Miner described the customs of the Nacirema tribe. He spends particular time describing their body rituals, such as their daily ablutions. In the passage below, he describes the rooms (shrines) where these rituals take place. I was particularly struck by the last sentences below, where he discusses the construction of the walls of these shrines: The more powerful individuals in the society have several shrines in their houses and, in fact, the opulence of a house is often referred to in terms of the number of such ritual centers it possesses. Most houses are of wattle and daub construction, but the shrine rooms of the more wealthy are walled with stone. Poorer families imitate the rich by applying pottery plaques to their shrine walls.

Now, Miner's characterization concerned the body-ritual shrine. Do you think the same characterization regarding stone vs. pottery applies to the food-preparation ritual center?

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Probably so. I've always said I couldn't afford marble so I put cultured marble in there - it's the only culture I'm ever likely to have. ;)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 6:00PM
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I used to use this when I taught high school social studies :)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 6:30PM
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Marti: LOL!

Dash: I believe that is where I first read it!

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 10:03PM
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LOL! (And you need to read Motel of the Mysteries by David Macaulay, if you haven't already!)

    Bookmark   October 18, 2012 at 10:35PM
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The Nacirema also engaged in bizarre hunting rituals to locate large planks of calcium carbonate, which though functionally inferior, were highly prized by the Nacirema for their unusual markings. Usually mating pairs would hunt together, but sometimes females hunted solo for these planks, traversing great distances and risking estrangement from their coital mate.

Modern scientists have been able to learn a great deal about this people and their diets by studying the calcium etchings, which are plentiful ns well preserved.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 12:05AM
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Mtn: Nice one! Well done.

large planks of calcium carbonate, which though functionally inferior,

When you say functionally inferior, did you mean compared to the silicates? Oddly, it seems that some mating pairs chose a hard silicate (such as an aluminosilicate), but others chose a soft silicate (such as magnesium silicate). Despite this commonality, the pairs who chose the soft silicate tended to ally themselves more closely with pairs who chose calcium carbonate.

The ones who chose a hard silicate invariably consulted a rock-priest. Some of those who chose a soft silicate crudely worked the silicate plank without the assistance of a rock-priest. (Perhpas we can infer that these must have been drawn from the lower echelon of the Nacirema culture.)

Even more confusingly, others did consult a rock-priest to perform the rituals on a soft silicate, but insisted that a rock-priest who was accustomed to the hard silicates could not successfully perform the rituals on a soft silicate. The chief priest of the soft-rock silicates lived in a swampy region at the lowest latitudes of the Nacirema range, and was named Auhsoj. His services were in demand throughout the whole range of the tribes, even though many other hard- and soft-rock priests already inhabited those areas.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 11:47AM
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mama goose_gw zn6OH

Some of them discovered that the stone could be cut into thin layers, similar in size to the pottery plaques, and affixed to the walls and altars with various mineral pastes, thus creating a 'middle class shrine.'

I was very lucky that my mate accompanied me on the pilgrimage to find our calcium carbonate plank, then built the altar to display it. :)

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 3:33PM
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@mama_goose - ROFL!!!

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 3:58PM
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I recall footnote 24601 states that the highest of the rock-priests gathered in a place along the shores of what we now call Lake Erie in a clearing cleared originally by eye m pay.

    Bookmark   October 19, 2012 at 4:09PM
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