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Magical practices among the Nacirema

The first reading for week 3 of EDCI 614 is

Miner, H. (2012). Magical practices among the Nacirema. In D. J. Hodges, The anthropology of education : classic readings.

After the break are some questions provided to guide our thinking as we read the article...

  1. Have you ever met a Nacirema?

I encounter Nacirema everyday at work. In fact, given that I live in very close proximity to Nacireman territory, I often visit there in order to exchange money for goods.

  1. What effect does Miner achieve by using the word magic?

The word 'magic', seemingly not in the original title of the article, serves to create a sense of exotic mystery around these strange people; to 'other' them.

  1. What does “magic-ridden people” suggest?

The language suggests that the Nacirema are somehow trapped in their plight and that they may be blinded to the irrationality of their culture.

  1. Is the researcher an insider or an outsider? What advantage does this status give the analysis?

The researcher is clearly presented as an outsider, giving them the advantage of 'objectivity'. Since they are not compelled to follow the magical rituals, they can be simply a dispassionate observer. Clearly, however, the researcher has imposed their own bias on their analysis.

  1. Consider the following quotation: “While the natives are very vague on this point we can only assume that the idea in retaining all the old magical materials is that their presence in the charm box, before which the body rituals are conducted, will in some way protect the worshipper” (Page 6, paragraph 3) Is Miner’s analysis correct?

In the figurative sense of the article, and given his bias, I think his analysis is reasonable in that it is internally coherent. It fits with the basic premise that Nacireman culture is infused with magic. In a literal sense as a commentary on American's reliance on medications for all sorts of maladies, both real and imagined, I think also that the analysis is reasonable.

that being said, a reasonable, internally coherent analysis can be completely incorrect, as I think this one is.

  1. How does this article affect the way I view myself as a professional?

The article, for me, presents a powerful example of how personal 'lenses' or biases always affect analysis. Even the most ardent attempts at objectivity are doomed to failure. So we might as well just admit them up front and engage in strategies to keep them in check.