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Introduction to the Anthropology of Medicine

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Kate Gong

on 11 October 2012

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Transcript of Introduction to the Anthropology of Medicine

Introduction to the
Anthropology of Medicine Kate Gong "Thinking About Thinking": ... small T The Birth of An Anthropology of Medicine Millions of years ago Modernity Our past 2002 March (cc) image by jantik on Flickr Paternalism Primitives 1870-1890 1920s 1890-1910 (cc) image by jantik on Flickr Yanomami Unilinear Evolution Modernity Karl Marx Torres Straits Expedition (1898) Trobriand Islands (1918) Vs. MEDICINE magic & religion Early anthropology began as the study of primitive societies. Anthropologists perceived that the natives did not have medicine, but rather considered and reacted to morbidity in ways that fell in the realm of magic or religion. Fundamentally, medicine regards disease as a phenomenon that obliges to natural laws; because the primitive people were thought to have not yet differentiated from nature, they lack the concept of the natural, and therefore also the category of natural science that is western medicine. Laboratory-based Modern Medicine No Medicine Temporal Difference 2002 March (cc) image by jantik on Flickr Sickness practical social ontological Medicine ≠ Modernity Historically, medicine has not been a focus of modern classical ethnography because anthropologists analyzed people’s medical beliefs from the standpoint of western medicine, which imposes a set of European categories that is not necessarily relevant or universally useful. Young links sickness with the "production of society" and "enactment of reality" and argues that a decoupling of medicine from the concept of European modernity is required in order to understand what medical beliefs and behavior mean for the people who hold and perform them. Armchair
Anthropology Classical Modern Ethnography Transition to a field science Allan Young, "Some Implications of Medical Beliefs and Practices" European categories:
Pre-moderns/Moderns Before 1870s After 1960s 1880s - 1960s The Golden Age of Medicine Plague (1665) Louis Pasteur Technology Hygiene Critique "The germ theory" Low life expectancy
Harry Beecher Tuskegee Syphilis Experiment Socioeconomic development Medicalization search for wisdom Haitian Voodoo Chinese Herbs Alternative Medicine Medical Ethics

Rivers grew up amidst waves of scientific discovery and the enormous sense of progress, where he had witnessed life expectancy in the UK double as a result of new medical technologies. Not surprisingly Rivers viewed medicine as a laboratory based natural science, and saw that it was absent among the natives.

In the mid-1960s, the golden age of medicine came to an end. The concept of modernity was questioned, doubted, and abandoned. Other forms of medicine emerged as alternatives to the paternal, rational medicine of the west. The decoupling between medicine and modernity permitted the establishment of medicine as a subject of modern classical ethnography, allowing anthropologists to inquire into other forms of therapy as medicine. Thus medicine for Young was no longer restricted to a laboratory science but rather encompassed all the ways in which people deal with sickness. Medicine medicine WHR Rivers Medical Anthropology
Clinical orientation
Illness vs. Disease
Critique of biological reductionism "To make contact" "For Kleinman, ethnography is a dependent variable, only in the framework of medicine" - A. Young Nature Truth Disease Cure Illness Culture Meaning Healing Mind Body The Mindful Body Kleinman founded the field of medical anthropology inspired by a profound clinical experience, in hopes that it would enhance the clinical relationship between doctors and patients by integrating cultural understanding, and thus prevent biological reductionism in Western medicine. Medical anthropology was to became a supplement to medicine: a means of translating between the cultural and the biological, of improving the clinical encounter.

Angered by Kleinman’s suggestions, classical ethnographers initiated a strong counter-movement. Lock and Hughes show that the distinction between body (nature, disease, medicine, science, truth) and mind (culture, illness, magic, religion) is analyzable as a culture-specific phenomenon; they reduce Kleinman’s truth to just one cultural idea among many cultural ideas, so that it too can be problematized. Culturally & Historically constructed categories** The Pirates: "Our epistemology [...] is but one among many systems of knowledge regarding the relations held among mind, body, culture, nature, and society" M. Lock & N. Scheper-Hughes, The Mindful Body: A prolegomenon to future work in medical anthropology "There is [...] a biological reality. But the moment efforts are made to explain, order, and manipulate this reality, then a process of contextualization takes place..." M. Lock, Encounters with Aging "Local Biologies" Anthropologizing Medical Anthropology An Anthropology of Modernity Science The primitive is really not primitive. Have we ever really been modern? Anthropologizing science & medicine "Making the strange familiar and the familiar strange..." "Truth is always complicated... it is always possible to contest different claims of truth" - P. Minn The critique of Kleinman’s work set the stage for the possibility of an anthropology of medicine. It shows that western medicine as conceived by Kleinman is not pristine scientific truth but rather one cultural specific form of knowledge and practice among many others that are equally plausible; it provides that our medicine is a time and place specific mode of thinking about the world, and is therefore contingent. In parallel, the critique of ethnography for its paternalistic nature gave way to an anthropology of modernity, and naturally, an anthropology of medicine. The End
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