I chose the ethno-medical approach because it focuses on how different cultures define and/or treat a certain disease or illness. One of the most important aspects of anthropology to me is learning the ways of the culture or society that you are studying. Different cultures have different belief systems meaning not every culture has the same definition of an illness or disease. Using the ethno-medical approach, an anthropologist is able to learn the society’s definitions of illness and disease, which helps him or her to understand why some things are classified as an illness and others are not. My definition of illness is probably very different from how someone in a third world country would describe it. Another interesting aspect to the ethno-medical approach is seeing how an illness or disease is treated in each society.
As defined by the lecture slides, diseases are outward clinical manifestations of altered physical function or infection. An illness is the human experience and perceptions of alternations in health, as informed by its broader social and cultural contexts. Distinguishing the two from one another can be a difficult thing. To me the differences between the two are in length and severity. To me an illness is something that is less severe and only effects the individual for a short period of time such as the common cold. A disease is something that is permanent or semi-permanent and more severe such as cancer.
Having already read this article in a previous anthropology class I already knew that the culture Miner was talking about was that of Americans. The first time I read the article it dawned on me that the medicine men and holy-mouth-men were just doctors and dentists. Then I realized that Nacirema was American spelled backwards.
One ritual that is discussed in the Nacirema article is visiting the “holy-mouth-men” twice a year. It describes this as an “almost unbelievable ritual of torture of the client.” Miner is describing the bi-annual visits most Americans make to their dentist in order to maintain healthy teeth/gums. To other cultures this may seem strange but to Americans this is quite normal. Another ritual described in the article was the ceremonies of the lapisto. The lapistos that every community has refer to hospitals. The article talks about the nurses and doctors that work there and the uniforms they must wear. One interesting thing is when it describes people who go there willing and eager to be treated, but won’t be treated unless they can afford it. In other words, if they don’t have health insurance they may not be properly treated. The listener also plays a prominent role in the Nacirema culture. “This witch-doctor has the power to exorcise the devils that lodge in the heads of people who have been bewitched.” The listener represents a psychiatrist. People go to see psychiatrist to help them deal with or solve issues they are dealing with.