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November 7: Biomedicine and the Clinic of Anthropology

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York University
ANTH 3330
Christianne Stephens

East Asian Medicine - traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) is based on teachings that have been passed down over thousands of years - TCM healing modality is based on diverse theories of disease causation and healing practices - practitioner restores health by treating the disharmony in the functions or interactions of qi and the yin-yang balance by using a range of different treatment strategies ▯ Today’s Lecture Outline: Biomedicine and the clinic in medical anthropology Roots of biomedicine Humoral medicine Studying biomedicine as a cultural system • anthropologists were one of the first to start casting their gaze inwards and viewing biomedicine as a cultural system • Staff of Asclepius: snake: from the earth, venom can cure or kill, foot worms, sign of stages of life and wisdom • Eye of Horus or the Eye of Ra, combined ideas of healing, restoration, and protection associated with the symbol • Paramedics (rod of Asclepius in the ‘star of life’) • Red Cross: first associated with human welfare and medical help during the medieval crusades when European Knights travelled overseas to help pilgrims and foreigners alike, such as the Knights of St John, the Knights Hospitaller, and the Knights Templar which was the first organization to officially adopt the red cross symbol Biomedicine and the Clinic of Medical Anthropology • Medical systems are part and parcel of larger cultural systems ◦ a reflection of how we understanding ourselves in the world, including how our bodies work and how they get sick ◦ can see how we chart innovations in scientific diagnosis and discovery • Different bodies get sick in different ways and require different treatments to get well ◦ local biologies ◦ as human beings we are made up of the same organs and organ systems; not necessarily talking about a different biological constitution but the ways people view their health and act out their symptoms is very different ◦ how their social network deals with that, how their healer deals with that, is very different • Access to different medical systems = choice of healing modalities ◦ biomedicine has become the golden standard in most of the world ◦ due to several factors: technological innovation, advancement of detection of disease through technologies ◦ social and political history: doctors created a professional guilt ◦ individuals that were working in concert with the elite ◦ the accessing Western medical care was really only accessible for those occupying the higher echelons of society ◦ through that network, professionalization of medicine, and its reification and institutionalization of education through the formalization of medical school that it became the predominant healing modality ◦ also marginalized other forms of healing • We will look at the development of biomedicine as the focus of study in medical anthropology ◦ medical anthropologists have been instrumental in tracing the evolution of biomedicine ◦ emerged from this cult of Asclepius (Greek God of medicine) and Hippocrates – Humoral Medicine, which was popularized by Roman surgeon Galen ◦ this alternative form of medicine which had very humble roots grew in popularity Asclepius is considered the God of Medical Art • Western medicine very biologically based • also been referred to as allopathic medicine, referring to the type of treatments that fight against disease ◦ different impact ◦ homeopathic medicine was a form of healing that emulated the illness in order to treat it ◦ cosmopolitan medicine… • son of the God Apollo and moral Coronis ◦ revered and especially at the institute of healing on the island of Cos, where Hippocrates started to disseminate his medical knowledge Humoral Medicine • Ancient Greek physician (c460-375 BCE) • “father of Western medicine” ◦ On the Nature of Man – Beginnings of an influential medical theory • prolific, worked during a time period where there was an oppressive political regime in place; often went contrary to that political structure; was imprisoned, wrote one of his treaties, The Complex Body, during this time • first real prolific Greek physician, first person to view disease as occurring as a result of natural phenomena rather than supernatural phenomena • believed that the human body was able to heal itself; ◦ help the individual recuperate ◦ bed rest • focus on prognosis rather than diagnosis • did not adhere to individualized treatment • talked about things that were essentially important: nutrition, diet, activity, lifestyle, and environment could bring on disease • really quantified and made medicine more of a natural science • ally medicine with philosophy: in order to be a good medical practitioner you had to be a good philosopher • the Hippocratic Oath ◦ established professionalism in the healing community ◦ talked about keeping a professional distance ◦ correct tools ◦ not getting involved personally with your patients ◦ practicing ethical treatment strategies • beginnings for an influential medical history • Galen (c126-216 CE) • prominent Roman (of Greek ethnicity) physician, surgeon, and philosopher • expanded principles of Hippocratic humoral medicine and health as moral virtue • physician as philosopher scientist • humoral medicine was institutionalized and prevailed as the dominant medical theory for the next 1300 years • was so dominant, seen as being so accurate, that it went uncontested for a long time Humoral Theory of Medicine
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