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September 19: What is Medical Anthropology?

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York University
ANTH 3330
Christianne Stephens

Topic: What is Medical Anthropology? - How does it fit into Anthropology as a discipline? - What do medical anthropologist do? - What kinds of things do medical anthropologists study? ▯ Grey's Anatomy Clip - What we consider to be legitimate and valid is dependent on the type of cultural context we grow up in ▯ 1. What issue is the attending physician facing in this clip? - different cultural views about health and illness; the reason for the patient's spinal tumour is attributed instead to a lost soul rather than scientific and observable symptoms and tests - s/he has to cross barriers of understanding the dynamic of the father- daughter relationship and the issue of her health within her family rather than within her individual body ▯ 2. How are the Hmong family's views on health and healing different than those of Western medicine? - they believe that her illness is caused by her lost soul and that for her to pursue healing she first has to retrieve her lost soul through the practices and rituals of a shaman or else she'll anger her ancestors - spiritual/religion isn't separated from the body and from healing/health practices 3. How is this issue resolved? - the doctors tolerate the Hmong family's beliefs and help them bring in a shaman in order to retrieve her soul so that she can go immediately into surgery after the ritual is performed 4. What else could have been done to improve understanding and communication between the doctor and patient/patient's family? - intermediary - better communication, understanding, and training in different forms of healing - understanding rather than just tolerance; mutual respect ▯ Health: complete physical, emotional, and psychological well-being of an individual - nutrition, holistic Culture: traditions, language, religions, systems of beliefs, foods, stigma, difference, the "Other" Disease: biomedicine, negativity, pathogens, contaminated, virus, chronic vs acute, imbalance Illness/Sickness: Is there a difference? Medicine: treatment, prevention, curative, pharmaceutical, reductionism, mechanistic Health care: hospitals, nurses, doctors, systematic, hand of the state (control), health policy, how health is delivered, health care professionals, formal education and training, long-term care, old-age home, entitlement, human rights, money and power (U.S.) Well-being: feeling health, mind and body feeling healthy together, mental health, spiritual (meditation, yoga), balance, diet and exercise Healer: alternative medicine, (Ayurvedic, Acupuncture, folk medicines, sweat lodges), Friends and family (social network), positive energy ▯ HEALTH - Absence of disease - Lifestyle - Longevity - Balance - Physical, mental, emotional, spiritual state of being - Health care access (healing) - Socially and culturally constructed ▯ Definitions of Health - Holistic approach – World Health Organization - "Health is a state of complete physical, social, and mental wellbeing and not merely the absence of disease. The enjoyment of the highest attainable standard of health is one of the fundamental human rights of every human being without distinction of race, religion, political beliefs, economic or social condition" (WHO, 1946) ▯ What is medical anthropology? - to understand what medical anthropology is, we must first what what anthropology is as a discipline ▯ 4 Disciplines of anthropology: Socio-Cultural, Archaeology, Biological (Physical), and Linguistic - inherited these disciplines from Franz Boas, the father of American anthropology, believed that in order to get a good sense of human beings, you needed to be able to look at things holistically, how they lived in the past, a sense of physical anthropology, and also the language they use and the way they communicate - Medical Anthropology is often considered a fifth sub-discipline, straddling Socio-Cultural and Biological Anthropology ▯ What is anthropology? - Anthropos = human or "man" - Logos = study of - Anthropology, The Study of Humankind - The social science that studies the origins and social relationships of human beings ▯ - Anthropologists never look at things in isolation, always talking about context: historical, social, political, cultural, - webs of social relationships (familial, community, regional, national, international); look at the horizontal and vertical relationships of these nested spheres of interaction ▯ - The study of humans, past and present - A field that synthesizes knowledge from the social and biological sciences, humanities and physical sciences ▯ Biological anthropology - The study of human biological origins, evolution, variation - Areas of study: - other primates (primatology) - the fossil record (paleoanthropology) - prehistoric people (bioarchaeology) - the biology and genetics of living (extant) populations - i.e. health, cognition, growth, and development ▯ Sociocultural Anthropology - The study of social patterns and practices across cultures - Similarities and differences, both within and among societies - Participant observation (ethnographic research) - Areas of study: health, work, ecology and environment, education, development, etc. ▯ Archaeology - the study of past peoples and cultures - Analysis of material remains (i.e. pottery, stone tools, animal bone) to reconstruct the ways of life of prehistoric peoples - Areas of study: the formation of social groupings, ideologies, subsistence patterns ▯ Linguistic Anthropology - the comparative study of ways in which language reflects and influences social life - explores the nature, structure, and variation of languages and how language practices define patterns of communication - Areas of study: power, inequality, social change ▯ Key Concepts in Anthropology - Culture: Beliefs, values, and practices learned, thought, and beajvour and passed from one generation to the next - Cultural Relativism: All cultures are valid
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