Biomedical Approach

The biomedical approach would be the most helpful for me to use and understand. Since I plan on studying health in the United States it is important for me to understand the environment the patient came from, their genetic history, and how they approach medicine and its practices. There are many different cultures within the U.S. and different ideas about certain religious practices that are important to consider when treating an individual.

The distinction between disease and illness was not obvious to me. Illness takes into consideration the individual’s personal experience while disease relies on a clinical diagnosis. While I know that people will refuse certain kinds of treatment, I did not think to consider that they may not see a doctor at all or may not even think of themselves as “sick”.  In American society, we seek treatment for many conditions that other cultures do not think of as disease; for example, anxiety or depression. Some people may not think these conditions are necessary of medical intervention while others would seek medication or therapy.

In the article, Body Rituals of the Naricema, I understood Miner to be talking about American culture. Throughout the article bold words which warrants a certain level of not having cultural consciousness surfaced; words such as “magical” and “witch doctor” for example. I was charged with the idea of an anthropologist describing the Naricema people with belittling terms. Having a history of understanding medicine in other forms as majestic in some way as an American, the article looks at the relation between the human body and medicine that aids with prevention and defense in a way that can be relatable to a non-western society because it seems outlandish to the American form of medicine and health. Also, I realized that Nacirema spelled backwards is American.

One of the rituals I chose to examine was how at a men’s ceremony, scrapes and lacerates the surface of the face with a sharp instrument. The article states how the personality structure of people is considered. Scraping of the face can be viewed as a humbling concept that brings out personality while denouncing physical features of a person which would be associated with impurity.

Another one is the mouth-rite. The Nacirema are very particular about the mouth and the ritual involves putting a small bundle of hog hairs and “magical powders” into the mouth and moving it vigorously around in the mouth. This ritual emphasizes how they viewed the mouth as being especially evil and that vigorous cleansing was needed.

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  1. Falicia Captain says:

    I believe understanding the environment and culture of a person is very important when studying their medical approaches and practices. Since cultures are so different between groups of people, I think it is easy to sometimes view an opposite culture as taboo or inferior, when in reality, a pseudo tone of judgment is just a lack of understanding. Just as us Americans may believe our health system is superior to that of, for example, an African village health system, our American health system can be judged as inferior with misunderstanding as well.
    The daily body ritual of “scraping and lacerating the surface of the face with a sharp instrument” (Miner 1999) performed only by men can be updated to include women in the ritual with shaving legs and underarms. Not only is it viewed as proper to be well groomed for men, but it has extended to women as well. Over the last 50 years the Nacerima culture has evolved to view unkempt body hair as unattractive or signs of bad hygiene for both genders. This furthers the importance of appearance and hygiene within the Nacerima culture.
    The mouth-rite ritual has essentially remained the same. Today the Nacerima still believe in proper dental hygiene and have even taken dental work a step further to not only remove cavities to maintain dental hygiene but engage in cosmetic dental work as well. The Nacirema has remained a society based on physical appearance accompanied by overall proper health.

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