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October 24: Ethnomedicine

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York University
ANTH 3330
Christianne Stephens

Ethnomedicine • Charles Hughes' definition ◦ "those beliefs and practices relating to disease which are the products of indigenous cultural development and are not explicitly derived from the conceptual system of modern medicine" ◦ In recent years, the arms has been used to describe biomedicine Typologies of Healing Systems • Foster and Anderson (1978): a disease theory system and a health care system Disease theory system • Personalistic systems: view disease as resulting from the actions of a "senate who may be a supernatural being (a deity or god), a nonhuman beings (such as a ghost, ancestor, or evil spirit) or a human being (a witch or a sorcerer)" • Naturalistic systems: View disease as emanating from the imbalance of certain inanimate elements in the body (such as the male and female principles of yin and yang in Chinese medicine) Healing care system • The social relationships and interactions between the healers and their patients Shamanism • exist in nomadic foraging, simple horticulturally, sedentary forager and intensive horticultural societies (chiefdoms) • healing practices that transcends these different kinds of social organizations, not exclusive to one category What is Shamanism? • rooted in a traditional system for healing and for solving personal and community problems • in certain societies, health is not only restricted to what's going on biologically in your body; being healthy or sick connects you to your larger social community • a shaman is seen as a part-time healer, individual who is able to contact spirits, gods, or ancestors, can contact them for wisdom, knowledge, advice, and also for healing • the way in which the shamanic practitioner contacts the other world: enters into an altered state of consciousness, different tools to get into that trancelike state • hallucinogenic medicines, drums, dancing, etc Where is Shamanism Practiced? • practiced by culture groups in diverse parts of the world • Native North America (Cree), Siberia (Chuckee), Asia (Hmong), Africa (the !Kung San of the Kalahari Desert), South America (the Jivaro of Bolivia) How does a person become a shaman? • varies among cultures ◦ some gain the position via hereditary lines, if you're father or mother was a shaman, traced along patrilineal or matrilineal line, etc ◦ One might also be selected as a shaman by the gods or spirits who reveal their desire through dreams or natural phenomena (i.e. storm or lightning) • a rite of passage for shamans-to-b
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