Critical Approach

I find this to be the most interesting and useful approach for studying Anthropology for me because of the way I am able to relate. Being a Philosophy major, I have an interest in ethics of all realms. Using cultural foundations of medicine as well as science to understand why things are done the way they are, and are culturally acceptable in some communities but unacceptable in others is a great way for me to grasp Anthropology in a way that I have some previous understanding of.

Illness and disease seems a bit difficult to grasp but I think I understand. Illness is something that is influenced or effective by “the human experience” allowing cultural norms to be factored in. Disease is influenced by western civilization. It is more of a physical problem with no factoring of cultural influences.

Miner is talking about the cultural background of North America as described in the second paragraph of the article and then clarified once again when talking about George Washington.

It mentions that the rich are concerned with their appearance and that includes that of their house. In rich families they can afford stone for their “shrine rooms” but poor people often try to “imitate” such rooms with look a like stone. I think this shows that the rich are valued in the community and the poor are not internally happy with their life and are constantly seeking approval or a way to become like those they admire.

Also they talk about the importance of medicine men and how if they were not around no one would understand how to read the ingredients that are needed to better one’s appearance. They are crucial in this process.

The importance of the mouth’s appearance is also necessary in this society. I do see this being a realistic claim as it is emphasized in our culture to take care of this from the moment we are born. It just goes back to the focus on our looks to be a good, accepted member of society.

3 thoughts on “Critical Approach

  1. Hey Ashley, I think it’s interesting that you picked the Critical approach I felt like it was a little too unstructured for my personal approach to things. I decided that the Ecological approach worked best for me because I like to think that I think about things from multiple perspectives. That approach takes into consideration several determinants (humans, plants & animals, culture, natural resources, and political economy). Nearly all issues require a holistic but critical analysis to clarify causes and understand affects. It’s interesting how identical sets of symptoms in different cultures are interpreted differently what one culture may associate with heart disease another may associate with something completely different. An example in this course was mothers post childbirth, and their image. In a human ecology where resources are scarce and the economy underdeveloped thinness is interpreted negatively whereas in more affluent places it is sought after.

    As for the Nacerima article- I was sure Miner was referring to Americans when I reached the part about the cherry tree. I liked the way he interpreted our culture as something foreign and mystical when we act like it’s so real and concrete. From what I’ve figured and read, people operate between a rather narrow set of facts they hold to be true, self evident, and pretty much taken for granted. These things may not even be substantiated by observation. There was a time when people believed demons were 100% real and meddled with day to day life. No-one disputed it, and whenever something happened they easily attributed it to curses from those demons.

    You talked about a couple rituals/ideas that Miner wrote about Americans that I’d like to talk about too; appearance/imitation and the prestige/value of medicine and its practitioners.

    You wrote that “… the poor are not internally happy with their life and are constantly seeking approval or a way to become like those they admire”. I do not think these feelings are only present in the poor but in everyone, but I definitely agree that they are present. According to Maslow’s hierarchy of needs belonging and esteem are basic/core needs for everyone. The fact that people imitate desires runs in line with Rene` Girard’s theory of mimetic desire (which is a pretty cool thing to wiki search) while he constructed it for literature I think that it applies to life as well; after all we’re all characters in our own stories. People in our culture value consumer goods and unfortunately many mistake our consumer choices as personal choices when we’re really strapped by our economic realities. There’s more to character and identity than the things (music, apparel, etc.) we consume. The rich will use stone while the poor imitate it. Even businesses recognize this. For example Walmart segments its product line up by three main customer groups Brand Aspirational, Price-Sensitive Affluents and Value Price Shoppers. The first of those three are “People with low incomes who are fixated on brand names…” They aspire to be like the wealthy. I’ve already said a lot so I’m going to be quick with my thoughts on the value of medicine and its practitioners.

    As for the prestige and value of medicine; medicine was not always a prestigious field. Until the 1800s medicine wasn’t even taken seriously. Healthcare was provided by a plethora of practitioners. Only with its technical improvement, restructuring of population geography into urban areas, and the improvement of communication did medicine become profitable and more highly valued. A good source for this type of information is The Social Transformation of American Medicine by Paul Starr. We certainly have a nearly reverent respect for the medical profession these days as if its almost a clergy. This comes with the medicalization of nearly everything and how self-conscious people are in a consumer society.

  2. Ashley, I picked out the biological approach because logically it seemed to make the most sense. Scientifically proven methods and a combination of methods most likely works the best, but as far as approach we needed to pick one. When you see a physician, they use a combination of methods to come up with a diagnoses–lab test, questions and examination.

    The rituals that you analyzed, the shrine, the importance of medicine men and appearance of the body including the teeth were important to the Nacerema and they are important today also. The shrine is a symbol in the home and could be considered to be similar to people taking time to make their homes beautiful and a source of admiration by other people. The importance of medicine men–today’s equivalent physician in people’s lives. Some people take their physician’s word as gospel as if they are all-knowing. Of course the ritual with the teeth is prevalent in today’s society with dentists and even dentist with sub-specialties orthodontics, endodontists and dentists that can create the perfect smile. Let us not forget plastic surgeons that can cut and re-shape the human body to a perfect formation.

    • To continue with my comment Ashley, so many of the practices today are the end result of rituals that have been started years and years ago. Medicine men, sorcerers, magic potions began with what started out as rituals and ways of treating ills and now has evolved (minus the actual rituals) into ways of treating patients. Idealogically, people still believe what their “medicine man” tells them, he/she is held in high esteem.

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