Ecological Approach

The ecological approach to medical anthropology considers the relationship between organisms and their entire environment. This approach can go beyond a biological approach because it can draw attention to ecological origins that may manifest into biological complications. Furthermore, it draws on the idea that the goal of an ecosystem is to maintain balance. An ecosystem in balance requires organisms within the environment to be in homeostasis in their own bodies that contribute to the greater community. I am extremely interested in osteopathic medicine and whole-body healing, so this balance-oriented, ecological approach appeals to me the most. This approach can be used to identify factors in an ecosystem that may contribute to ill health. An example of this in ecology is identifying the role of a keystone species. This approach can extend to practical applications in humanity. For example, relationships between diet and health can be examined on an ecological level. If a population is eating meat from a cow, where are those cows and what do they eat? Does this have an effect on the physical or psychological health of the humans in question?

As for the distinction between illness and disease, I viewed disease as a kind of illness. My perceived definition of illness was broader than the one given in the lecture. I thought of illness as any ailment, and disease could be one of them.

Milner is talking about the American culture. The geographical description early in the article drew my attention, and I pictured the culture in the location that was discussed. At first I pictured America as the area between Canada and Mexico and I was a little bit confused. Why had I never heard of this culture in history classes? The practices that were described seemed ancient, and America is not as old as the Eurasian cultures that had magic rituals thousands of years ago. At first I winced when reading about the rituals, but as the article went on to describe ways that the body is manipulated I recognized parallels between the Nacerima culture and the American culture. The emphasis on our unhappiness with our natural bodies echoes in America today.

The ritual of drilling into teeth for no medical reason represents treatments of whitening and straightening teeth, although they are not described as this in the article. The Nacerima culture links this practice to having friends, which seems so fitting for Americans in particular. When reading about the practice, I imagined the drilling to make teeth uglier, and I believe that Milner purposefully made it seem that way. The practice emphasizes the exaltation of outward beauty over health, which is also demonstrated by the people risking their lives for these magical treatments. The ritual of the listener represents psychological health in the Nacerima culture.

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  1. Drew Selden says:

    In regards to the listener I believe it’s what we could call present day psychologists. In the article Mimer says the listener was unusual because of its lack of ritual. The patient simply tells the listener all his troubles and fears, beginning with the earliest difficulties he can remember. This listener has the power to exorcise the devils that lodge in the heads of people who have been bewitched. It’s just like going to the psychologist and telling them your problems and fears and telling them when and where they first started. The psychologist is able to get to the root of the problem most of the time and help the individual face their fears or manage their ill feelings in a healthier way. It’s still pretty similar today in regards to parents ‘bewitching’ their own children. There is a large number of children being born out of wedlock and living in single parent households which most of the time the mother is the one raising the children by herself. So it would still be accurate today to say that mothers generally are the ones ‘bewitching’ their children and by bewitching I mean either not being there making the child feel not loved/important or by being a poor example for the child to look up to. These feelings in the early stages of a child’s life can have dramatic effects into adulthood.

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