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Lecture 14

ANTHROP 2R03 Lecture 14: Lecture 14 - Illness, Healing and Religion Pt 2 (Feb 6)

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Ellen Badone

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Religion, Magic, and Witchcraft
February 7, 2018
Illness, Healing and Religion Pt 2
Hmong mountainous regions of China, Vietnam, Laos, Thailand
During Vietnam War, US recruited Hmong to fight on US side; after war, Hmong
refugees fled to Thailand, and many re-settled in US including California where Lee
family lived
Theme of healer as afflicted person
Experience of illness makes healer able to understand suffering of others
Lee family baby daughter Lia epilepsy
Quag dab peg = the soul stealing spirit catches you and you fall down
soul had been frightened and left her body lost
Hmong see epilepsy as sign of being able to perceive things others cannot see, facilitates
entering trance
Parents understood Lia’s illness as sign that she was called to be a shaman an honour,
although also concerned about her well-being
Shaman = txiv neeb, person with a healing spirit
Vocation, not choice
Calling is evident if person becomes sick, either epilepsy or another illness involving
shivering, pain
If you reject the calling to be a shaman, you will die
Role of shaman high social status and moral character
Lia’s parents took her to Merced Community Medical Center – where she was treated by
resident, Dan Murphy
For US doctors critical to stop Lia’s seizures, for family, ambivalence about them mix
of concern and pride
Good illustration of lack of cultural competence on part of biomedical system
Absence of Hmong translators insufficient funding for hospital
Inability to get history, communicate directions re treatment
Kleinman: explanatory models = the way people understand biological dysfunction
(sickness), influence the way people think it should be treated
Completely different explanatory models for the phenomenon
biomedical = epilepsy, neurological disorder caused by electrochemical storm in brain
family = spirit catches you and you fall down sign of special status as person with a
healing spirit
Lia treated by pediatricians who could not understand Hmong worldview
Language problem “non-compliance”
Lia put in foster care = traumatic for whole family, eventually returned
Eventually Lia had massive seizure, declared brain dead
Doctors assumed she would die
Parents took her home, looked after her
She lived 26 years more in vegetative state
txiv neeb ceremony done for her annually
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