FGM in Sudan and Somalia

FMG is Female Genital Mutilation and is very common that about 90% of girls are subjected to the most severe form of infibulation, which is the surgical modification of mutilation of genitals. It originated in North Sudan many by Arab women and also in the Nile valley of  Khartoum but then spread to other ethnic groups with no previous use of genital mutilation. Religion, tradition and sexuality is the factors that are used to justify this genital mutilation. It happens in societies in which socioeconomic security is given to women primarily through marriage and women have to be virgins in order to be able to marry is why this is still going on. Families fear that if they don’t do this the child will not be accepted for marriage and face social consequences. Although the consequences of this procedure vary from complications during pregnancy, very painful intercourse, and many gynecological problems in life. There are though been efforts and awareness to change this practice including governments and voluntary organizations, but it is a very slow process.

An anthropologist I found was Ellen Gruenbaum. She focuses on women’s health issues, she did 5 years of fieldwork in Sudan on FGM. In her book “The Female Controversy she shows that the Western views efforts to change this genital mutilation can make things actually worse. She shows outsider and insider perspectives on this to understand. She focuses on groups that practice this.  She did find that outsiders harsh feelings toward FGM do not appreciate the cultural contexts. Through her work it is also shown that this is being changed through economic and social developments, influence of Islamic activists and health educators. So through her work people are able to see how it takes a lot and is a very debated practice so in changing this practice it is going to be a process. She also wrote “Nuer Women in Southern Sudan: Health, Reproduction, and Work” She has been apart of and made many articles referring to this issue.

Sources for FMG: http://www.landinfo.no/asset/764/1/764_1.pdf

Sources for Ellen Gruenbaum: http://books.google.com/books?hl=en&lr=&id=JOXmOLBd4E4C&oi=fnd&pg=PA1&dq=female+circumcision+controversy&ots=QS_nP-dOiN&sig=pTw7dFXS3yEWakW2R2LJyY-8Ru4#v=onepage&q=female%20circumcision%20controversy&f=false





Public Heath and Medical Anthropology

I picked this because public health is something I have always been interested in. I like the idea of helping people that are less fortunate because I felt like spreading knowledge on health and illnesses can greatly improve the health of a community. I feel really strongly about it too because especially I find with our society and some facilities and people in the healthcare are really only concerned about money and refuse to treat people in need.  I want to become a Physicians Assistant, and I don’t want to do it for money purposes I want to help people and If that means not always getting paid what I should that is okay. It would also be so amazing to go to a different country and help with a project like Dr. Farmer has.

In working for any healthcare provider I feel especially after this class that taking an anthropological view is very important and extremely helpful so people don’t waste their time and efforts. This is because in these types of jobs although you or they may know the scientific facts and what is right and how to treat someone, but other cultures and people have different views and beliefs that are important to know and understand. Like for instance in the lecture when it talked Malaria in west Africa and how the people were given free bed nets to keep the mosquitos away but one of the reasons they may not have been getting used was their fear of the poisonous nets and they would rather get malaria. Also with birth control and sexual health their are cultural barriers because sex before marriage is considered a taboo that is not talked about. Also when Jazzman talked about a women who found out that Peru’s water was contaminated and she tried to help teach the women in Peru that there are parasites in the water and it needs to be boiled. Although they showed interest in her they believed that the spirit of the earth is in the water and it is destroyed if it is boiled. These all show that by understanding cultures beliefs and knowledge toward illnesses you can understand where they are coming from and why it is important to taking a different approach to helping them because otherwise the problem is still going to exist.


Obesity has become very medicalized in U.S. culture because of the high increase in it, and all the illnesses that are seen to come from obesity. It is very much our culture that has shaped obesity as an illness because it is not the ideal appearance. In our culture through media it is perceived that the ideal look is in shape, and thin. Since celebrities are who we see on television and in the media, we see their efforts to be thin through personal trainers and diets that it makes us feel as if obesity is something that everyone should try no to be. Obesity has a link to status as well so people higher on the economic and political hierarchy have more access to to usually healthy foods, and workout regimens to set the standard for everyone to see. Like Conrad and Schneider said that more illnesses are being considered medicalized because of the social interest and social problems. I think this is true in the case of obesity as well. I think also our knowledge on health disparities that obesity brings has also lead people to seek biomedical intervention because their seem to be so many thing associated with it.

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In this lipozene advertisement their strategies are direct to consumer. They show a women with a sculpted body on the front page hinting at that can be you. They use the line “lose pure body fat” and isn’t that what everyone wants? We tend to sometimes want to go for a more natural approach so they incorporate our cultural values and ideologies by saying this pill is all natural, safe and effective weight loss. The social roles they use is that they say what is amazing is people don’t have to change their daily lives to loss weight they only have to take the pill. This seems like an easy way out of obesity so it really attracts the listener because one of the hardest parts of trying to loss weight is changing your daily life and this isn’t asking you too. It presents medical information by first off saying that it is clinically proven. It also says that there are no known side effects. It also shows and explains the ingredients in lipozene. There is no doctor patient interaction because it is available without a prescription.


1. By culture of biomedicine we mean biomedicine even though to us it seems the norm is is a culture and can be studied anthropologically. In the lecture it explained how biomedicine has parts of making it a culture the institutional history of biomedicine, language of biomedical facts, and rituals of biomedicine. Like in the article on “Rituals in the operating room: Are they necessary?” it shows that that is a culture with the rituals they do and even how they dress in a surgical room. It is so important because it ensures patients safety. Culture of biomedicine is also so important because we are able to see that just because this is the most common approach in western culture that is based off facts does not mean that this is the same in other areas. Sometimes it is the more natural or religious ways that matter most to others.

2. My view on this dichotomy is that when your heart is beating you are breathing you are alive, and when the opposite you are dead. Through my religion I learn that your soul is inside your body and when you die you leave your body behind, so death is when your soul is gone. These views have came from biomedicine, and religion because we learn the differences between life and death. It can especially be hard in biomedicine to make the call on to keep someone alive even with no brain activity of after being in a comma for so long, cause even though a person is technically according to biomedicine alive, are they really with no brain activity?

3.  I think this life/death is accepted as logical in western society because it makes sense to us all we can all clearly see the difference between life and death and they are two opposites of one another. It is natural because we see it as a part of life we know that one day we will all die and can’t live forever it is a part of life. It is true in western society as well as a part of the objectivity of universality because through facts and knowledge we know when someone is dead. Life and death are not seen as in between because through what we know someone can’t be considered alive and dead it is one or the other.

True Life: I have Diabetes

This show was about 3 young people who struggle with diabetes. One is a girl named Kristyn who is type 1 diabetes which is the diabetes in which your body produces no insulin. But she has never let it stop her from doing what she wants to do until it started running her into financial debt and she was forced to move back home. You see the struggles she deals with in her overwhelming mom and working 80 hours a week while trying to find time to keep herself sane. Matt is a college student who has type 1 diabetes as well. He had always been good at controlling his diabetes but once he got to college it became hard for him because he wants to enjoy college life and drink but drinking to much makes him fall into seizures. Jen has type 2 diabetes which is where your body can produce insulin but not enough that your body needs. She found out she had this the same time she got pregnant and eating healthy for her is a constant struggle that she eventually has to get insulin shots.

The type of narrative I believe this is is Quest. The narrative is used to show that although diabetes is a life long disease and they will never be able to live without insulin, you can still live a long life. It is their journey on how to cope with diabetes that we are seeing. That even with their struggles they get through it.

In our culture this is a widely known and accepted illness so it is not a stigma. It is chronic but people mostly everyone knows about diabetes and do not think of it as an excuse for something as post-partum is sometimes thought of.

With diabetes these people were frequently visiting medical professionals so there was much experience there. Kristyn was in debt because of all her medical bills. Matt frequently saw a doctor because of his new found seizures along with regular check ups. Jen was pregnant with diabetes so seeing a professional was a must to make sure her and her baby’s health was okay. She even had to see a nutritionist to talk about her exact diet to make sure there wasn’t to much sugar. Basically with diabetes these people are constantly in contact with medical professionals because without insulin provided to their bodies they would eventually die.

For the sick role these people have many responsibilities including managing their diet and always checking their blood sugar, as well as giving themselves their necessary insulin shots daily that are vital to their health. These are responsibilities to themselves in order to maintain their health. Cause diabetes is so common I wouldn’t say they are excused from regular activities or have certain rights. It seems that they all try and live normal lives other than the fact that they must do their daily routines which may get them excused from a few things.

Illness narratives are very important to patients, family, and healthcare providers. As said in the lecture they can reveal how social expectations and stigmas contribute to  illness and patient identity. It helps families to better understand what their loved ones are going through. For the patients it is a therapeutic toll to tell their story and make sense of their suffering, it can help them adjust to a new disability and also feel empowered. The families can feel less isolated. Healthcare providers can model ways on how to live with the persons illness. It can help other patients to help them with the same type of illness. Healthcare providers can point out relatedness in narratives to better help people.



Post-Partum Depression

1. Post-partum depression is sometimes seen as a weakness and as an excuse for a bad mother or father. It is hard for a lot of people in our culture to understand because not everyone goes though it while having a child and some are just overwhelmed with joy. So culture influences especially from the article “A Dad’s Story of Post-Partum Depression” left him feeling bad about himself. In our culture that gets so happy about babies for him to type into google he hates his child is frowned upon. Also post-partum for fathers is something that is especially not as talked about because males are suppose to be seen as strong and to hide their feelings more. Biomedicine can help this illness experience because they can prove that it is really a problem to make culture more accepting and knowledgeable of it so a person like the Dad doesn’t feel like such a terrible person for feeling this way and that doing his own research found many other dad’s going though the same this as him. So hopefully biomedicine can help change opinions with real facts of brain chemistry to help these people’s illness experience.

2. I think that this influences the management and treatment of post-partum becasue with this even in the article it said that especially for men it is often misdiagnosed and not in some eyes not seen as culturally acceptable which may lead to them never getting the proper help they need to manage it. With biomedicine it can be proved and treated. Also if recognized properly it can be managed and treated through talking to someone close or therapy. It is important to these people to feel that they are not alone, and when identified it is a very treatable illness.

3. I think that there is a strong connection between belief and healing and they can at times come hand and hand to some degrees. Like in the film “Placebo: Cracking the Code” I found it amazing that two men with such terrible knee problems to the point they were dragging their legs around were now able to play basketball and go on long walks with no pain. They really believed in the surgery and then came out with a healed knee. Also the women with depression and couldn’t even drive her child to school without crying was given a placebo pill and then felt better. Even the emotional part in her brain was a cooler color. It seems so amazing that you can’t help but think that beliefs and healing must go together because if you convince you mind of something it can really happen. I find this but in the opposite effect. When everyone around me is sick I start to feel sick and convince myself I am sick even though I am really not. I feel this way with certain medicines and diet pills for instance when it says you will have a loss of appetite and burn calories I really feel this way and sometimes I think I have just convinced myself it does this rather then the pill itself. The placebo effect is really interesting are really shows the power of your own mind.

Dhat Syndrome in Asia

1. Dhat syndrome was said to be semen-loss anxiety. It has vague somatic symptoms of fatigue, weakness, anxiety, loss of appetite, guilt, and sexual dysfunction due to theloss of semen in either through masturbation, nocturnal emission, or urine. The symptoms are well known in the Indian history of this semen loss anxiety. This syndrome was found not only in India but other parts of Asia and through history it shows that even in the 19th century Western culture had fear of semen loss as well. The researchers said that they think through industrialization and urbanization this semen loss anxiety vanished from the West, and that the same may happen in Asia.

2. There is no biological dimension to this illness. The cultural dimension is that it is what people and cultures believe about semen to make it a syndrome. That is it is present in more than one place. Like in China it is believed that semen is a vital energy and excessive loss is weakness so it causes panic. In history of Western cultures masturbation was a crime and the loss of semen in a inappropriate way would lead to reduction of its size. SO the way a culture sees the loss of semen as such a bad thing and state of weakness it brings on the anxiety and worry. In the Indian culture they believe that it takes 40 days for 40 drops of food to be converted into blood, 40 drops of blood to one drop of flesh which converts to marrow and then to semen. So to them it seems so important and such a process that they want to preserve their semen. So for the individual these cultural beliefs create a fear so they then produce a somatic symptoms and seek help for themselves from practitioners because of these worries because semen loss is seen as harmful.

3. In India it is being evaluated by practitioners and confirmed that their are physical reasons for there complaint of semen loss. Patients are being assessed as an hypochondirac, sexual dysfunction, and weakness. Treatments are psychiatric diagnosis because this disorder has symptoms of common mental disorders.

Source: http://bjp.rcpsych.org/content/184/3/200.full

Clown Doctors: Shaman Healers of Western Medicine

1. Clown doctors was about clowns that went to New York City hospitals pediatric units to help cheer up children and their families, and even the hospital staff. They call themselves doctors even though they are not real medical doctors. They are apart of CCU which stands for Clown Care Unit. It talks about how this kind of entertainment came from shamanistic performances. It was said that the kind of mediation of culture and nature is central to the healing arts and sciences. The clowns purpose is not to replace doctors or think that they are an alternative but to help with the emotional aspect to make people happy which proves to help the healing process. Like one part was about a boy who was severely burned and the surgeons were cutting away his dead flesh but the clowns were able to make him laugh. It talks about that even though some of these children are going though terrible diseases like AIDS and cancer the clowns help bring light on their experience through that time so it was all terrible. Throughout the article it compares how alike the Shaman healers and the clowns are.

2. The healers in this article were the clowns in the emotional and psychological aspects of the children because they did not replace real doctors. Their social status is probably middle class or of a lower status because doctors and other medical staff are seen as higher because they are seen as needed. The techniques they use are being inappropriate at times to make children laugh. Some of the clowns are mimes. They use music and do performances with different instruments. They interact with their patients by dressing up in ridiculous costumes and makeup and putting a white coat over it and calling themselves doctors. They go do different units in pediatrics bring light to their patients with things like stuffed animals and tools to make people laugh.

3. The system that these clowns operate in is New York City hospitals of American culture. Healthcare is delivered in this system though professional doctors of medicine and based off of scientific findings. The body and symptoms are treated by their needs and what is wrong with a person based on physical aspects or known diseases while sometimes the emotional aspect of what a person is going though is not treated. It is based on the body’s functioning and what is wrong with the body to fix it. Sometimes doctors dissociate themselves with the actual person and emotional aspects.


Not Just a Paycheck

1. I thought I would have done a lot better on the health equity quiz but I honestly did pretty terrible. The statistics that I found most surprising was that Latino immigrants have better health when they arrive to the U.S. and then their advantages disappear. I thought this was interesting because I would have thought that the U.S. if anything would improve their health, but it makes sense because health care is so expensive here. Also I thought the fact the the top 1% of American families own more wealth than the bottom 90% combined. That is just terrible and is not right at all, it honestly just makes me sad because it just shows how they have so much unnecessary money.

2. The case study I chose to watch was “Not Just a Paycheck.” I was about a company Electrolux from Greenville Michigan closed and moved to Mexico. The workers in Michigan received $15 an hour plus health benefits while in Mexico they were able to pay the workers made $1.57 an hour. Many people were laid off but the company had to do what was best for them. It added $1 million a year to the company. It goes on to examine the consequences of job loss, which prove to be enormous. It shows that it is not just a lost job the stresses of money bring people sleep loss, nausea, anxiety, depression. It brings people to overeat and lead to obesity and with obesity comes all sorts of health problems. It adds such a stress on these people it is so sad. Some people just don’t know how to cope with the issues of being laid off. It was interesting too because it showed that after Electrolux closed at the nearby hospital the cases for depression increased so much. It shows that even with areas of development, urbanization, and globalization circumstances happen like loosing a job and because money is so important by means of survival here it creates all kinds of health problems.

3. Politics influence the development and spread, and treatment of illness because with their help politics can completely help a population, with advances in who is able to get medical care. Economics can influence because it has to do with the amount of wealth a person of area has so they more wealthy it is able to help the spread of illnesses, and allowing people the ability to get treated. Environment plays a big part as well because a more undeveloped environment might not have the necessary medical devices to treat illnesses which cause them to spread. Cultures can perceive illnesses differently. This could mean that a culture is about a holistic or spiritual approach which could lead to the spread of an illness because they aren’t getting treated as how someone in our culture would see fit. In biology some people may develop illnesses easier then others and also could have been given a genetic disease which keeps the disease spreading. Individual choice is your own beliefs and by certain choices a person can put themselves in positions to get illnesses like smoking can lead to cancer. Some people may even make the choice to not get treatment for an illness.

Cystic Fibrosis and White Americans


This is a picture showing how with cystic fibrosis mucus blocks the airways. source: http://pathologyproject.wordpress.com/2011/02/04/cystic-fibrosis/

  This graph shows how the genetic prevalence of the gene is more common in caucasians. Source: http://www.ntdlabs.com/molecular-testing/

2. Cystic Fibrosis is a genetic disease caused by a mutated gene that causes the body to produce a thick sticky mucous. It then builds up in the airways of the lungs, and in the pancreas. It leads to life threatening lung infections and serious digestion problems. . It is possible to carry the gene for cystic fibrosis but have to symptoms. In order to get the disease you must inherit the gene from both parents. I chose this disease because it is the most common, deadly, inherited disease in White Americans. Most children are diagnosed by age 2 but less severe forms may not appear till the age of 18. It is more prevalent among White Americans because as a carrier with one mutation and one normal gene its protects the person against diarrheal diseases like cholera and typhoid . Since these disease used to be deadly to people in Western Europe in might have stayed among the caucasians to help against those diarrheal diseases. Also I think that because it is genetic disease and needs to be passed through both parents, while either parent probably does not know that they have the gene because they don’t have symptoms so I think that this keeps its prevalence among this group. Social determinants can also play a factor like there may be more cystic fibrosis among an mostly populated White American area. It also may be the case that inter-racial couples are not coming together and have children as much as a caucasian couple.


Sources: http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmedhealth/PMH0001167/

3. Race, genetics and health are all very intertwined into each other. It is interesting because you cant tell what race a person is by just looking at genetics but you can see a prevalence of genetic diseases in certain races. Health issues can be based on the economy and environment so if people of the same race are in the same area as certain diseases or things like contaminated water, they are more likely to come up with that illness.  In the lecture 2 it said that science proved that their is no such things as biologically discrete races but that it is still thought of in this way. Like for instance the medicine BiDil that is said it is more helpful in African Americans that is currently an argument because how do you define races and the only way for a doctor to define race is what race they tell you they are. It was interesting to that the lecture said that racial stresses maybe leading to heart conditions. So health, genetics and race are all in some way related but what is interesting is what race is defined as. I would say it is the culture you live, if their is more poverty that race or area of people may not be able to afford treatment for illnesses or disease.