I feel as though the experiential approach will help me most in learning and understanding medical anthropology for one very important reason. People’s ideals, interpretations, perceptions, and understandings of things are what molds the culture around them. In order to truly understand what people do we need to understand why they do. Being able to see/hear narratives in regards to a person’s illness, their experiences with said illness, as well as the meanings they find in which to make sense of their illness is key in understanding their actions.
The distinction between disease and illness is only slightly obvious to me. It can be hard to distinguish between the two and to see things in a different light, so to speak. Disease is the actual clinical alteration of physical function or infection. Illness, however, is what culture says it is. It is based off the human experience and our own perceptions of alterations in health. It is determined by the broader social and cultural context.
The Nacerima article tricked me greatly. I have previously read the article in another anthropology course I took at LCC. It was not until after reading Miner’s article that I realized he was referring to the American culture. I was only opened to this fact upon reading other posts by other student in the online class at LCC. I had noticed many similarities between the ‘Nacerima’ culture and our own but never thought that Miner was actually speaking of the American culture.
The first ritual I want to discuss is that of the shrine and the magic potions. The magic potions, or medications as we call them, are of high value in the Nacerima culture. Miner shares that the natives do not believe they can live without these potions and yet don’t even remember what most of them are used for nor do they remember how old they are. To me this shows that this culture depends heavily on medicine and health.
Secondly, is the ritual of the daily mouth-rite. This daily mouth-rite is better known as that of brushing a person’s teeth with a “small bundle of hog hairs” ”along with certain magical powders” as described by Miner. This represents the great belief that oral hygiene is extremely important and is very valuable to the Nacerima people.
Lastly; I want to note that of the latipso; the place in which the medicine men work. The ceremonies held within are harsh, painful, and miserable. Men and women seem to welcome being stripped of their clothes in these latipsos even though in everyday life body secrecy is most important. This shows that this culture believes that the medicine men will cure them of their diseases and illnesses no matter how painful and harsh the treatment may be. Health and beauty is much more important than that of modesty or temporary pain needed to accomplish said health and beauty.