Having taken several anthropology classes, I was very familiar with the distinction between health and illness. My definition of health was having a absence of any symptoms and overall well being, while my definition of illness was having symptoms and feeling ‘off’. After listening to lecture I also added that illness is culturally and socially constructed. I chose ADHD as being one of the harder ones to put into a category because I remember one of my professors saying how pharmaceutical companies make drugs for creation behaviors just to make money. An example that my professor used was ADHD, and how this used to be described as bad behavior in children, but now since there is medicine it is classified as an illness. I decided to classify it as an illness, but I definitely think that my decision was socially constructed. I think that where you grow up, how you were raised, education, and media all helped to form my idea of what an illness is or not.

To me, menstruation is not all illness. It is a normal body process that all women have. The media definitely portrays it as a bad thing, and how women are moody and irritable. They have even made medicine specifically for PMS which makes people think it can be classified as an illness. If someone is going to classify menstruation as an illness then I believe every normal body function could be classified as an illness such as going to the bathroom.

I believe that HIV is an illness because it is something that you can receive from someone else and you can become sick. HIV eventually will turn into AIDs and that will at some point, lead to death. It’s a virus that attacks your immune system and kills vital cells.I think that if something that kill you it should be classified as an illness.

I believe that cancer is an illness because it is unregulated cell growth and can spread throughout your body and cause death. It has no cure, but only treatments that can help. I think it’s an illness because there are many forms of it, and we don’t know how all of them are caused. It’s a very mysterious illness and that has a lot of unanswered questions. It also causes a lot of physical and mental pain.

Ethnomedical Approach

I believe the ethnomedical approach is the most useful because it helps you understand the role of people in different cultures, their health beliefs, and their cultural values. Anthropologists using this approach are able to physically go into a culture and learn first hand about their practices and beliefs about health. In all of my anthropology classes that I’ve taken I have learned that the best way to understand a culture is by actually putting yourself in that culture, talking to the people, and seeing it from their point of view. You can’t try to help people if you know nothing about them. There isn’t a universal cure all for disease and illness in the world, different parts of the world need different kinds of help.

Disease is the physical symptoms that we have and how we deviate from the norm, and illness is culturally constructed and defined. For me, it’s easier to understand when you put in into the disease without illness/illness without disease categories.

Having read the Nacirema article before, I knew what culture they were talking about before I read it. I do remember the first time I read it I had no idea they were talking about Americans, and didn’t realize it until my professor told us. One of the rituals in the article was of the “mouth rite”. They describe this as hog hairs being put into the mouth and moved around, which is them describing someone brushing their teeth. They believe Americans are fascinated by the mouth and that if you don’t perform these rituals your gums will bleed, teeth will fall out, etc. Another ritual is visiting the “holy mouth-men” once or twice a year. This ritual that is going to the dentist, but they describe it as a ritual of torture to the mouth. A third ritual that is described in the article is that women “bake” their heads in small ovens for an hour. This is when women go to the salon and have their hair colored and sit under the dryer.┬áThe article portrays Americans as being obsessed with their body and believing that it is dirty and decaying. It maintains that you must perform these rituals as a means of cleansing the body. The Nacirema are very fascinated by health and will do anything, even if it involves torture, to keep the body clean and healthy.


Aspiring OT

My name is Chelsea Thomas, I’m a senior, and my major is Interdisciplinary Studies in Social Science. I plan on applying to grad school for occupational therapy. I have taken two anthropology classes previously, ANP 270 and ANP 370. I enjoyed both of them very much which is why I chose to take this class as well. I really like learning about how medicine can be so different between cultures.

The picture I chose is of Caseville, Mi. I spend a lot of time up here during the summer and love to hang out with my family and relax. I’m currently typing as I look at the beach so it makes taking a summer class a little bit easier.