Ethnomedical Approach

I think the ethnomedical approach is very important to understanding and curing various diseases. Although I think all of the other approaches are important, the ethnomedical provides researchers and healthcare experts the ability to cater to a person’s beliefs while still providing the optimum amount of care for their illness. I think it is very important to consider a person’s cultural beliefs when assessing an illness and I think he/she will respond positively to a traditional approach to medicine when being cared for. I also believe that there is a lot to learn from traditional medicine and just because we have not found a suitable way to describe ‘why’ something heals, we sometimes cannot dispute the fact that traditional medicine does work for the people that use it.

In conversation, I find myself using the words ‘disease’ and ‘illness’ for the same occurrence when this, in fact, false. I have always learned that they are different (for a few multiple choice exams in high school and college), but I have never had to explain why they are different. The word ‘disease’ addresses the physical component of an ailment, or disease. Illness has far more cultural implications and discusses the experience that a person has with a disease. The distinction between disease and illness was never really obvious to me and I think it is because we see them as the same thing a lot of times.

In the Nacerima article, Miner is talking about North American/American culture. This became evident when I started to read several facts that characterize American society. When he said things like, “chopping down of a cherry tree,” and “The focus of this activity is the human body.” I found that these were phrases that can be identified by American culture.

The first ritual that i analyzed was the body ritual. I found the mouth rite to be very ritualistic and was a way for people to identify strangers and show their cleanliness. The mouth rite consisted “inserting a small bundle of hog hairs into the mouth, along with certain magical powders, and then moving the bundle in a highly formalized series of gestures.” This ritual was a form of hygiene, similar to how we perform our own rituals to show our own dental hygiene (brush our teeth in the morning and at night). Just how the Nacerima associated cleanliness with morality, I see the same type of emphasis on cleanliness with our society. I also analyzed the latipso ceremonies and what they meant to the Nacerima people. The latipso ceremony is a ceremony for the extremely sick to pay to receive ritual purification. This showed how valuable medicine and wellness was to the Nacerima. In a way, the latipso ceremony is similar to the modern day hospital and how it has become such a staple in modern society. The fact that the Nacerima were willing to pay such large amounts for healthcare means they put an emphasis on medicine and well being in their culture.


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  1. massolla says:

    The body ritual, more specifically the mouth rite, could be updated by expanding on how the mouth rite has grown to become more complex over time. No longer does a person “insert a bundle of hog hairs” into their mouth. Instead one inserts a bundle of plastic fibers covered in a special paste to clean their teeth. The next part of the ritual is for a person to take a thin string and places it between their teeth and pull it back and forth in a sawing motion. Finally, a person will pour a small volume of special holy fluid into their mouth that they will then swish around and spit out in an effort to make their mouths as holy as possible. I do think that the same ideologies and values surrounding the mouth rite remain the same though. For the latipso temple and ceremony I do not think it has changed much from the initial description. Hospitals are still places where very sick people reside in high concentration and many procedures can still be viewed as barbaric. The only way I could see updating the description would be to somehow incorporate insurance companies into. Maybe along the lines of if a person is a member of a certain affluent tribe the medicine men at the latipso will provide a more luxurious level of attention and care.

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