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ANTHROP 3HI3 Study Guide - Final Guide: Medical Anthropology, Ethnomedicine, Biopolitics


Department
Anthropology
Course Code
ANTHROP 3HI3
Professor
Dr. Rebecca Plett
Study Guide
Final

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ANTHROP 3H13 Exam Review
Introduction and Antecedents
o Medical anthropologists:
o How illness is understood, experienced, theorized, treated
o How groups of people deal with life events
o How we understand health or well-being
o Antecedents:
o Illness and healing bring together medicine and religion
o E.g., Evans Pritchard picture built shelters, termites were the reason for their collapse, however
they used witchcraft to explain
o Attempts to explain how diseases are caused/treated demonstrated the relationship between
medicine and religion
§ Illness may be caused by magic, witchcraft, or spirit possession
o Development of a subdiscipline:
o Illness understood to be caused by something
§ Causation will lead to seeking medical treatment
o Wide range of orientations (medical anthro)
§ Narratives, bodies and experienceculture to illness and healing
§ Biopolitics, sociality and governalitystructures of power and effects on health
§ Global healthmedicine as a practice of human rights and social justice
§ Postcolonialismunderstanding violence, humanitarianism
o Takes place in highly complex contexts
§ Underdeveloped countries, poor countries
§ E.g., organ trafficking
o An anthropology of health, healing, and illness:
o Belief is central to Christianity
o Science is central to medicine understood to be objective, neutral and areligious
§ Science is objective, but belief is central to both religion and science
o The need to correct beliefsthanks to the medical model:
§ Being obese means, you are not conforming
§ Diseases are universal biological/psycho-psychological entities that result from body
dysfunction
§ Symptoms and signs are measurable
§ Task of medicine is to diagnose
o Science based on rationalism
o Divide between beliefand knowledge
Ethnomedicine
o Biomedical model of health: absence of disease and normal functioning of the body
o Social model of health: implies a sense of wholeness, wellness and well-being
o WHO: health is a state of complete physical, mental and social well-being and not merely the absence of
disease or infirmity
o In our context:
o Disease: medically defined, objective pathology
o Sickness: social manifestation of the bodys physical reaction to disease
§ Allows person to take on a socially defined sick role
o Illness: subjective experience of disease, sickness or distress
§ Whether or not there is a diagnosis
§ Understood through culture
o Curing: removal/correction of organic pathology (treatingphysicalillness/body)

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ANTHROP 3H13 Exam Review
o Healing: subjective experience of the restoration of physical, mental, emotion, social and spiritual
health
o We can have disease without illness, and vice versa
o Just like you can have mental illness with good mental health
o E.g., placebo effect
o Biomedicine is good at curing disease, healing and illness need to go beyond the physical body
o Ethnomedicine: study of medical systems/healing practices of a cultural group
o Ethnomedicine system encompasses individual experience, discourse, knowledge, practice and
meaning of health and healing
o Medical systems cannot be understood apart from the social, economic, political and religious
organizations
§ Biomedicine is known for treating physical body and curing disease
Focus is on the body and the physical cause of the disease ignores context of
patient
Organized around scientific principles, and methods that ground a rationalist
approach
Individual and illness > social context of illness
o All communities responded by creating their own medical system
o Key to developing taxonomy and describing health and/or illness is any ethnomedical system is
etiology à diagnosis à treatment
o Personalistic: causes the illness
§ Person is the root
§ Has to do with social causes of disease
§ E.g., spirit possession, loss, damage
o Naturalistic: nature
§ Has to do with things in the environment/external agents that have to do with disease
§ Biomedicine is in this category
§ E.g., tooth decay, injury, malnutrition, imbalance
o Disease etiologies:
o Personalistic -if you are sick, you probably did something that projected into an illness
o Naturalistic e.g., Chinese medicine
o A lot of ways to think about disease causation:
§ Body balance4 humours
§ Body beliefsblood, organs
§ Natural world - accidents
§ Breach of conduct - transgression
§ Maliceaggression, witchcraft
§ Supernatural worldghosts, spirits
o Explanatory system:
o Personalistic illness part of a comprehensive explanatory system
§ Same ghost, witch, etc. may cause illness as for example, drought
o Naturalistic restricted to disease
o Treatment:
o Personalistic multiple levels, hence need a curer with supernatural/magical skills
§ Question is whoor why
o Naturalistic specialist, primary concern is therapeutic
§ Self-diagnosis is keyyou know the causative agents, thus you know what caused you to
be unwell
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