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Lecture 3

ANTHROP 1AA3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 3: Insomnia, Hippocratic Oath, Humorism

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Andrew Wade

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ANTHRO 1AA3 DR. WADE JAN. 16, 2017
Lecture 3: Illness
Medical Anthropology = study of human health and disease, health care
systems, and biocultural adaptation
o Traditionally subdivision of cultural anthropology
o Ethnomedicine = cross-cultural study of health and health systems
All cultures have a health system:
o Perceptions and beliefs about body
o Classifications of health problems
o Preventive measures
o Healing/healers
Illness = perceptions and experiences of a health problem
o Different from culture to culture
Disease = biological health problem; universal
Explanatory models for why we get sick are products of culture
o Ancient Greece
o Hippocratic oath still taken today by doctors
o Body should be treated as a whole
o Based on balance of humours
Humoral Theory = philosophy that seeks balance among various bodily fluids
and forces
Four Humours:
o Blood
o Yellow bile
o Phlegm
o Black bile
Imbalance of any of these humours could affect health negatively
Ancient Egypt
o Channel System = blockage or misdirection of blood, air, feces, and
water in body causes disease
o Most sick people excess heat and moisture (fever, sweating, cough)
o Blood-letting restored balance
o Illness came from being “out of humour”
o No disease specificity
Hot-Cold Theory
o Important aspect of Latin-American folk medical practice
o Emphasis on body in balance
Miasma = disease comes from the air
o Natural condition of that region (that disease is only within that town or
o Transferred in smells
o Hard to protect against (bc it is in the air)
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