ANTHROP 3HI3 Lecture Notes - Lecture 4: Cultural Anthropology, Structural Violence, Medicalization
Course CodeANTHROP 3HI3
ProfessorDr. Rebecca Plett
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• Offers scholars, students, and practitioners new ways to understand how culture and ritual are
embedded in the education/socialization of health care providers
Dr. Robbie Davis-Floyd
• Senior cultural anthropologist research fellow at the University of Texas
• Spent over 20 years researching issues in the anthropology of reproduction, focusing most closely
on childbirth, obstetrics, and midwifery
• Identified the characteristics of the technocratic, humanistic, and holistic models of birth
Key terms and concepts
• "Paradigm" as a conceptual model of and template for reality: becomes this through ritual (in this
case, the ritual of hospital birth
• Ritualistic practice/ritual: something that is patterned, repetitive, and symbolic enactment of
Technocratic model: mind/body separation
• The body as a machine
• Diagnosis and treatment from the outside in (curing disease, repairing dysfunction), a profit-driven
• Since the early 1900s, body in the US was conducted under a paradigm called "the technological
model of birth"
• Developed as a result of the separation of body and mind so that the body was removed from the
purview of religion and opened up to scientific investigation
• "catholic religious hegemony" in the West gave us the male/female opposition, in which the
"violent hierarchy" of male as valued/female as devalued dichotomy dominates
How is the technocratic model transmitted through rituals of hospital birth?
• "the less conformity the labour exhibits, the greater the number of procedures that will be applied
in order to bring it into conformity"
• Obstetrical routines applied to the "management" of normal birth are transformative rituals,
meaningful beyond what they "do" practically
• Procedures "map" a technological view of reality onto the labour experience; this aligns the
birthing person's individual belief system with a wider societal one
• Performance of birth routine/procedures as 'performed':
o "such ordered, acted, and stylized techniques serve to deflect questioning of the efficacy of
the underlying beliefs and forestall the presentation of alternate points of view"
• Patterned and repetitive performances
• Symbolic: they communicate messages through the body and through emotions
• "enactments of our culture's deepest beliefs about the necessity for cultural control of natural
processes, the untrustworthiness of nature and the associated defectiveness of the female body,
the validity of patriarchy, the superiority of science and technology, and the importance of
institutions and machines"
Humanistic model: mind-body connection
• The body as an organism
• Diagnosis and healing from the outside in and from the inside out
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