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.

1 thought on “Experiential

  1. While I really like the approach you chose, I was considering that one for quite awhile, I ended up choosing biological as my approach. This was because I felt as though I understood that approach the best and it made the most sense to me. Biologically, physically, if something is wrong with you, it is something that medical communities and people in general can tend to understand, though they may all feel differently towards it or have different methodologies towards treating it.
    With regards to the Nacerima article, which was written over 50 years ago, I feel as though most of these rituals have been updated into present day. For the magic potions, in current day we now have prescription medicine, vitamins, and antibiotics that are used to treat ailments that one person is dealing with. This is also common to our culture since our society is also heavily dependent on these.
    The second ritual, daily mouth-rite, is quite similar to brushing one’s teeth today. We have modernized with toothbrushes, which are much easier on teeth and individual’s mouth in order to properly clean their teeth. In present day, having white, straight, and healthy teeth is considered to be very important, and in our society you aren’t considered attractive unless your teeth are so.
    The final ritual relates to the latipso, which are places medicine men work. This can relate back to being in a doctor’s office; being naked and being poked and prodded, which isn’t appropriate in public or in every day society, is appropriate for these situations in order to check out the health of a person and to make sure everything with them is going alright.

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