Biological Approach

As a human biology major, I think I would find the biological approach to be the best way to understand and learn about health. The majority of college classes I have taken the past three years at MSU have been science related. I actually just took genetics last semester, and would most likely find it manageable to relate one’s genes and environmental surroundings to health. Biology is something that not only makes sense  to me, but interests me as well, so this is the approach I would prefer to pursue.

The distinction between disease and illness was not at all obvious to me. I have always thought of a disease as just being a more serious type of illness. However, disease, according to lecture, is described as having outward clinical manifestations. On the other hand, illness is described as being the human experience, altered perceptions one might have while sick. The definition of illness changes from culture to culture.

In the Nacerima article, Miner is talking about the American culture. I did not realize this until Miner said they were a North American group, and he described them as living in America. One ritual performed by everyone who is a part of the Nacerima is the daily body ritual. This ritual includes a mouth-rite, inserting a bundle of hog hairs into the mouth, as well as “magical” powders. This example shows how differently the Nacerima value health compared to our own culture, where there is a stigma against putting any kind of hair in one’s mouth. They consider their rituals and beliefs to be more important than their health, whereas we think first about the filth of hog hair and the germs it can carry. Another, more disturbing, ritual the Nacerima execute is the seeing of the holy-mouth-man. This man creates or enlarges naturally occurring decay in the people’s teeth, in order to fill the holes with “magical” materials. This is another display of dedication to their traditions and rituals because the people continue to see this man, regardless of the pain it continuous to cause. We look to pills to feel better and to improve our health, but they believe more in magic and ceremonies.

This Post Has 3 Comments

  1. Pamela says:

    Though you labeled the practice “disturbing,” I kinda disagree. When I read the article, that particular practice of the “holy-mouth-man” opening holes in your mouth made it sound a lot like when you go to a dentist for a filling or root canal. Many of the practices described in the article that was written 50 years ago, display the values we hold true today in the area of medicine and health. Like you mentioned, I believe it lies in the idea that we have come to believe that we need “pills to feel better and improve our health.” However, we too believe in the magical and ceremonial aspects of these things because it is an American culture. In my point of view, the whole purpose of being in America is that there are so many distinctions and classifications of health and sickness that change and are modified as the years go by. Though we may not call it a ritual, we have grown up knowing that we have to go to the doctors every 6 months or get our teeth checked every few months. There isn’t anything that I can see that needs to be updated value-wise from what the article describes and our health values now. They seem pretty accurate to me when it comes to the dependence the Nacerima and the American culture place on doctors or specific men within the society to rid them of any ailments-whether we decide to classify them as illnesses or diseases. It’s all one in the same in certain aspects.

  2. Delisa Quayson says:

    Also a human biology major myself, I was tempted to go with this approach. I decided on the applied approach because even though i think the biological method is great, I like the cultural edge the applied method brings. I knew there was a difference between illness and disease but i used both words interchangeably and could not have defined either before watching the video.
    I also feel like Miner mentioning that they were North-AMerican kind of clued most people in as to the culture he was talking about. I agree with Pamela, I think the mouth rituals can be likened to teeth brushing and visiting a dentist. The article mentioned that they did this once or twice a year which is about the same number of times it is recommended to see a dentist in a year. I think the hog hair are the bristles on our tooth brushes and the magical powder may be tooth paste, floss or any of the many other dental products we have. The medicine man that makes holes in their teeth is the dentist probably filling in a cavity. Most times these holes have to be enlarged and cleaned and filled with filler. I know this because I had a cavity filled myself.

  3. Valencia Smith says:

    Reading about these different rituals were interesting because it showed such differences and how health is viewed by different cultures. It seems as if the Nacerima’s ways are geared more towards spiritual healing. The moth rite ritual is one that I would compare to simply going to the dentist as well as the holy mouth man ritual. Their beliefs gear more towards self healing and spiritual dependence. I agree with you when you say that they look more to magic as a way to heal and we as Americans look towards medications. This just goes to show the various ways health is viewed around the world. We may find their ways of healing disturbing, but they may feel the same way about ours. I also think that their ways of healing may just come from not knowing about others ways to improve health or not having the same resourses as we do. Also, tradition is obviously a huge part as well. When your people have been doing these rituals for years and they have showed improvements by their standards in health, they may believe there is no better way to heal or improve health. Their standards and definitions of health are different from ours and I don’t think it’s a bad thing. It shows the diversity of health and healing.

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