I picked the approach of ethnomedical because I believe that it really focuses on the understanding of illness in relation to the cultural definition and how those illnesses are treated based on cultural practices. This approach allows for the comparison of defining what each culture constitutes as a disease and illness and how multiple approaches to the topic affects each individual’s physical being. For example, when I am sick I seek help from a respected medical physician. However, some Native American tribes seek health treatments from a medicine man or a respected spiritual tribal leader. Though, we seek medical treatment from different people we do share a common goal of getting help from someone that is known within the community as a respected member that possesses the ability to enable better health. The way that we experience disease and illness is different because of our differences in cultural representation. Disease and illness fall under the umbrella of sickness but each one as different constructs of sickness. The disease aspect is the outward expression of your physically altered state whereas illness is our individual interpretations of physical ailment.
In Miner’s article about the Narcerima people, he is describing a culture that focuses on health through the understanding of magical and spiritual belief. I realized this when he started talking about how each family has an alter room that they store their potions and relics in a box in the wall. Their belief in the power of magic explains why they provide gifts to the medicine men and use potions to ward off disease and illness. The fact that these people still experience all the ailments that they believe magic will alleviate shows just how deep of a cultural bond they have to their understanding and experience with illness.
There are a few rituals that demonstrate their cultural beliefs of health and the influence of medicine. One ritual is exorcisms. The belief that a witch doctor can exercise evil out of an individual shows a high value on spiritual healing. There is an importance on the cleansing of the spirit and that evil can cause harm to one’s health if allowed. Another ritual is unclothing of sick individuals as they enter the imposing temple. Since nudity is so taboo within this culture, the stripping off of the clothing and allowance of others to wash them shows how strong the beliefs are put into the healers of this temple. The faith that they have in their healers parallels the faith we put into doctors and the medical system. The last ritual is the packing of the gums with magical relics and potions. This ritual is to stop gum decay and even though individuals still experience this decay and disease, the fact that they continue to go and have this practice done continues to demonstrate the belief that these healers and medical men know all and that all faith is put into spiritual healing.