The article I am referring to is Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine. This article focuses on a professional group of clowns who work in a pediatric unit. The main point of the article is to make a comparison between shaman healers and clown ‘doctor’s. I did not overly enjoy the article; I’m not entirely sure why. Essentially, the article posits that clowns and shamans are similar because both employ strange costumes, props, and behaviors, in addition to sleight of hand, ventriloquism, music, and feats of skill that break natural and cultural laws. The point about breaking social/cultural ‘laws’ is repeated quite frequently throughout the article. The article also talks about how children are a better focus point because they are less “vaccinated” against belief in magic. While that may be true, I do not agree that children would believe the clowns to be normal doctors with special powers. While convenient in enhancing the analogy between clowns and shamans, it is conjecture only in the article.
The healers are clown ‘doctors’. Specifically, they are a group of professional clowns who work in a hospital in NYC with the children admitted to the hospital. In this context, their social status is not as relevant as it would be for other ethno medical systems, but I would hazard the guess that professional clowns are probably somewhere in the middle of the social status spectrum. These healers use comedy to try to cheer up children and their families, helping to make their hospital visit a little less scary. They interact with their patients by telling jokes or performing rehearsed skits with them.
These clown doctors operate in regular a NYC hospital, rather than in their own separate institution. Healthcare is delivered through what I would imagine is standard biochemical medical practice in the U.S. This setup focuses only on treatment via medicine or procedures. IT is because of this that the clowns are able to serve a useful purpose. Because the hospital is rather intimidating and impersonal for a child, the clowns are able to ease the tension by cheering them up.