Fiction Article by Sociologist Lieutenant Colonel Horace Miner Most Downloaded at AAA web site!

There is a report from AAA that Horace/Harold Miner’s 1956 article “Body Image Among the Nacirema” is the most downloaded from the AAA journals for 2012.  It was downloaded over 11,000 times in 2012.

Missing from AAA’s statement about the Nacirema article is a basic distinction about the article which is that it is not “science,” but “fiction,” or maybe “satire.”  Yep, the Nacirema are a made up “tribe,” as legions of delighted undergrads who have read the article have discovered for 57 years.

In fact Horace Miner, the author of AAA’s best read article, was ostracized from the Anthropology Department of Michigan State for having a sociology appointment.  In terms of Cold War-era anthropological sin this was apparently worse than having spent World War II as a Lieutenant Colonel in Army Intelligence.  To add indignity, he is variously cited as both Harold and Horace Miner—check it out on Google!

Which raises the issue did Horace Miner get tenure in anthropology for writing fiction?  The answer is no—remember Miner was a sociologist at Michigan State.  He spent his sociological career doing a range of archaeology in the US, and ethnography in Africa, but was told by the Anthropology Department that he was not a “real” anthropologist. It happens.   In between archaeological and ethnographic gigs, he was also a military officer during World War II, rising to the rank of Lieutenant Colonel, quick-stepping past the rank of Major, and the indignity of being “Major Miner.”

Which I guess means that Miner was a fictive anthropologist, sort of like fictive kin, even if he did win the “most down-loaded” award from AAA for his Nacirema article.

In celebration of that award, AAA ungated the article on their website for three whole months!  But alas, that three months has since passed, so you have to get it by googling it and finding it on one of the many web sites where bootlegged copies are uploaded.  Here is one of them, for those of you with a more anarchist tendency. Click away!

And if you want to read more fiction from a wannabe anthropologist with a military connection, check out Mark Dawson’s article about the day the AAA dissolved itself.

Finally about the mystery of Miner’s first name.  It is Horace, not Harold.  But there are a legion of citations to Harold.  There is also a stubby-style orphan Wikipedia entry for Horace which really does not do the guy justice—I would encourage someone from AAA, ASA, or army intelligence to go fix things.

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