ANT369 February 2 , 2014 (catching up on last week's class as well)
Global Health & Bio-medicalization
– Study of disease, health problems, health care systems, and theories about illness in different
cultures and ethnic groups
– Disease: a scientifically identified health threat
– Illness: a condition of poor health and health perceived or felt by an individual or community.
Being sick, usually more than one symptom and usually more than one cause.Anthropology
looks at the complexity involves, not to reduce health/illness to just a 'symptom' or 'a bacteria'.
– Healthcare Systems: beliefs, customs, specialists, techniques. Every society has to deal with the
sick. How do you deal with them?
Theories about the causes of illness:
– Personalistic disease theories: illness caused by agents such as sorcerers, witches, ghosts, or
ancestral spirits (example, the 'evil eye')
– Emotionalistic disease theories: illness caused by emotional experiences (examples, trauma,
witnessing the loss of a loved one) Psychological characteristics: depression, no energy. These
theories more often than not entail the idea that what causes this is soul loss. Some part of the
soul or the entire soul goes astray and there's an imbalance in the life. Only way to retrieve the
lost soul is to seek help (Shamanistic forms of curing)
– Naturalistic disease theories: personal explanation of illness. No concept of a supernatural
cause, based in science. Examples: parasite, accident (something fell on my foot, some cultures
have no accidents)
– Scientific epistemology: Natural basis of illness, natural science
– The humans body & its functions. Subjectivity is not a big factor in scientific research. Looks at
health as part of a natural system, and to study these systems you need to use natural sciences.
– Epidemiology: Illness in populations/ demography
– Ideas of homoeostasis – balance
Cultural – Interpretive Model
– Transcending the limits of the biological model (Prof gives example of a guy who developed a
horrible cough and goes to all these specialists and they couldn't find what was wrong. Turns
out the guy was living in filth, his home was covered with mold. Cleaned up the home and the
cough disappeared. The healthcare system isn't equipt to handle this.) What is the everyday
context, what is the lived experience of the population you are studying? Have to look at things
like tradition and religion to understand health and beliefs. Witchcraft is important. Gender is
also very important in terms of the cultural traditions of healing. What if the only doctors are
men and they aren't allowed to touch women and vise versa?
– Examining the 'cultural' basis of illness and health
– Phenomenology: form of philosophy which examines aspects of subjectivity, aspects of
experience. Doesn't work for scientific analysis like observable behaviours. Critical MedicalAnthropology Model:
– Health and social inequality: People who have access to resources are going to have different
illness patterns and treat illness in different ways. Critical MedicalAnthropology doesn't reject
– Health and capitalism: modern surgery, antibiotics, problem is the distribution of such
– Medicalization: how social and cultural problems are being redefined as medical problems and
what are the ramifications of this? Poverty? Homosexuality? Hoarding? Sex addiction?
Unemployment?Attention Deficit Disorder? Medical hegemony, developing these ideologies of
health and disease that shape people's world views. Cost-effective medical healthcare. How
about just effective health care (Farmer)?
– Universal mode of healing
– Doctor, Priest, Social Worker, Mystic
– Contact with the spirit world
– Same curing odds as MD's for many diseases
– Shared meaning between patient and healer is essential, patient has to believe the healer is
doing something good for them. Not just, “Oh I'm just going to stick this needle in your arm!”
Paul Farmer 2004 Anthropology of Structural Violence (Farmer has a MD & Phd)
– Structural Violence:
– Liberation Theory: In the 60s/70s LatinAmerica was the focus of a lot of radical, political
attention, & the Catholic Church has become the biggest defender of human rights, many of the
people within the church were merging Marxist ideas with Catholic/Christian doctrine. Many
people devoted their entire lives to working with the poor. That's what its all about in a nutshell.
Political activity guided by theoretical influence.
– Impact of “resistance”: Farmer says resistance is overblown in social sciences
– Effects of specialization in social sciences
– Role of France in Haitian history – where did all the wealth in France come from? Haiti was the
most lucrative colony. French conquered the Spanish then managed these sugar plantations that
were feeding basically the monarchy of France.
– US involvement: always the biggest 'shits'. They didn't support Haiti diplomatically, they
created an embargo, they bullied them over the smallest trade issues to the point of invading
them in 1915 and establishing hegemony over Haiti. Turned Haiti into an assembly line,
manufacturer of US goods, very cheap labour.
– Duvalier: One of the dictatorships that the US supported. 1957. Very brutal regime, ruled by
force, killed 50-100 thousand people during the regime. Used voodoo as an instrument of state
oppression. They had a secret police among whom were very high voodoo priests.
– Aristide: President – they tried to assassinate. Using the institution of the Catholic church as a
– AIDS theory: Evidence says AIDS was introduced from NorthAmerica, perhaps through the
sex tourism industry.
– Tuberculosis & Haitian folk belief: belief went from a personalistic to a naturalistic theory.At
first they thought it was caused by evil spirits, but when they implemented a program for
medicine the population adopted a naturalistic explanation for it. – Critique of Structural Violence: Concept of structural violence was an unnecessary neologism.
The reviewer argues that structural violence fails to distinguish between