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Lecture 2

ANTHROP 1AA3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 2: Measles

Course Code
Andrew Wade

of 5
Lecture 2
Thursday September 12, 2013
Medical Anthropology
Traditionally a subfield of cultural anthropology: closely related to biological
ETHNOMEDICINE-cross cultural study of health and health systems
Compare regions, past and present
Interdisciplinary: also look at sociology, economics, biology etc.
What is a health system?
All cultures maintain a system that conducts a ‘source of healing’
Illness and Disease…
Illness: Perceptions and experiences of a health problem “more like a feeling, or
physiological, perceptions of illness. Disease is not” -> can be the result of a disease, or
related spiritually or culturally
Disease: Biological health problem; universal (ex. Measles)
Explanatory Models
Products of Culture (vision of how diseases work and most influential person was
Hippocrates 460 BC)
Western Doctors still take the Hippocratic oath ‘ I will do no harm ‘
Hippocrates’s belief was that : The body should be treated as a ‘whole and not as
a series of ‘parts’
‘Four Humors blood/phlegm/yellow bile/black bile
Egyptians believed in this systematic structure of the body (example: tubes ran
through the human body and if any of the tubes were to dysfunction then that
person would be sick. For example, the black bile was associated with the spleen)
Blood-Letting; most sick people – excess heat and moisture (fever,
sweating, cough) Blood-letting restored balance.
Being out of humor was the cause of the illness (out of humor)
This may seem ‘absurd’ in Western society, is still used in some cases -> excess
*By the 1600’s we believed to be more intelligent than those outside of our western
civilization. Quarantine were deemed to be ineffective for Miasma, airborne bad smell
causing disease. A related idea that puts us closer to the models of disease is the
‘contagious’ model of disease -> Through sanitary procedure and quarantine, it was
believed the spread of disease would stop.
Hot-Cold Theory of Disease
Important aspect of Latin-American folk on Medical Practice
emphasis on a body in balance
based on Hippocrates’ theory -> avoids imbalances of hot and cold in food, drink,
and environment
Germ Theory
Microscope technology
Different diseases caused by different germs
Disease caused by damage to different tissues
Koch – stressed a new important dynamic, that each disease was caused by a unique
bacterial organism. *Damaged tissue affected the system of the human body
Our Health Systems -- Western Biomedicine
Body as a machine: either functioning or non-functioning
Repair – repairing this ‘broken machine
Emphasis on microorganisms
Treatment: kill microorganism eliminate disease
‘Battle Metaphors in terms of battles between two sides. (Ex. White blood cells
fighting off an intruder, Killer ‘T’ Cells)
Other (ex. Spain and Portugal, Central and South America)
Susto = higher mortality rates/chronic complaints contributed by ‘soul loss’
Individuals may suffer from symptoms; anxiety, anorexia, fever, depression,
Lack of appetite, poor body image
Susto was cured by a ritual ‘folk cure’ involves lengthy series of rituals, prayers to
Catholic Church. Props used ex. Chicken egg, gifts etc. (Rid of this supernatural
being from the victim/patient)
The patient is covered in blankets to increase the body temperature…
Healers (Curanderos)
[Number of different kind of medical specialists ex. Parteras (midwives)]
The entire community may take part in a healing. This is because the mobilization and
community energy offers access to those ill as well as cooperation in the healing process.
Leprosy as a cross-cultural phenomenon- Nigeria
Healers (How they get to this field of work)
Professional Image
Expect Payment -> different for different cultures
Culture Specific Syndrome: Anorexia Nervosa
Associated with industrial, Western societies
Found mostly in Euro-American adolescent girls
Difficult to cure medically
No clear biological cause
15% below their bodyweight or a BMI of 17.5 (or lower)
Culturally linked to concern with appearance and body weight
This trend increased in the 1970’s (or at least became recognized as a disease)
**Self-Starvation was sought to be religious, women that starved themselves ‘holistic
An example of this type of saint is St. Catherine of Siena
Her yield of food, was her thought of a yield of sin
Died of stroke at the age of 33
Ecological/Epidemiological Approach
Environment and Health (categories that are vulnerable for different diseases)
Causes and spreads of health problems
Environment: interacts with culture to influence the cause and spread of health
Anorexia nervosa: Results from urbanization, modernization and ‘stressors’
-Can identify reasons for illness eg. Western ideals of beauty, then identify those at risk
eg. adolescent females
Critical Medical Anthropology:
Focus on how economic and political factors affect health and access to healing
Anorexia Nervosa- Socially constructed concepts of perfection, morality
(These ideas are commonly obtained from a variety of sources exerted from the media/
pop culture society)
Cross Cultural Case Study: Leprosy
Prevalence rates, beginning 2007
Incidents of new cases worldwide are decreasing
Brazil, Madagascar (and other Nations) hold 90% of the cases found all over the
Lepromatous Leprosy: begins in the nasal area
Tuberculoid Leprosy:skin condition characterized by solitary skin lesions that are
asymmetrically distributed
Only other non-human host that can be affected by leprosy are the 9 banded
Leprosy as a cross-cultural phenomenon - India
Social outcast, rejected by community. This is influenced by India’s embedded
caste system
swearing falsely by the Koran
Washing in water a leprosy patient has used is considered bad.