Ethnomedical Approach

I believe the ethnomedical approach is the most useful method to studying anthropology. Our definition of anthropology, as stated in lecture, is the study of humankind. To me that means looking past the genetics of an individual or the quality of the environment they live in. You also have to analyze how they are detecting illnesses and what the protocol for addressing those illnesses are. I also feel as though the ethnomedical approach incorporates ideas from the other approaches and makes the study of anthropology more unified. Although you do look at how the illness is perceived and what categorizes it as an illness, that requires you too look at the surrounding cultural environment (Biological) to see what might have triggered that idea or even how certain individuals describe the illness, since that varies from culture to culture (Experimental). For me, all aspects of medicine work together to help come to a final consensus and I feel as though the ethnomedical approach best fits that niche.

I have always known there to be a difference between disease and illness but have never really thought about it in the context that was brought up in lecture. I think I thought of an illness as more of a debilitating condition, such as cancer, and a disease as something you could cure more easily and didn’t affect everyday life so much. Since reading that a disease is a manifestation of something and an illness is a human perception, I have reworked the definition in my head.

After reading the first paragraph of Miners piece I assumed he was describing a Native American tribe’s rituals and customs. Reading through these rituals, it was very apparent that bodily appearance was a prize to the Nacirema. The emphasis they placed on oral health sent a very strong message to me. If you think about it, someone’s smile or bright white teeth are usually the first things to be noticed. Oral health says a lot about someone’s hygiene and oral hygiene and health are positively correlated. Even today people are always whitening their smiles or looking for toothpaste and mouthwash to freshen breathe because life is focused around the mouth; eating, drinking, and talking. Why would it have been different back then? Although they may not have been whitening their teeth, the “hog hairs with magical powder” may have held similar grandeur to white teeth today.

A few other rituals that screamed bodily appearance to me were the fast rituals to thin people and the feasts to fatten people and the breast augmentation rituals. The Nacirema placed a lot of importance on looks and appearance to others no matter what the cost was to them. Funny how today, a lot of things are still the same and play such a big role in how we classify beauty! By today’s standards, the rituals of the Nacirema are harmful and unnecessary. But if we look at some of the approaches of anthropology, we can see that this is just how the culture was set up and how people addressed their “illnesses”.



This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Rolando Barajas says:

    I agree with how the article really emphasized on the external ritual of beauty and it’s social implications on the Narcerima culture.

    On the subject of beauty the rituals expressed in your reflection and the article are very much alive today. You mentioned about the articles point on the fasting and feasting to obtain a socially acceptable body image, today we have people who are constantly on diet plans (weight watchers and paleo) or obsessively count their calories through apps like my-fitness-pal. It becomes an everyday ritual to eat as little as possible to obtain an “ideal” body, thus leading to eating disorders that might not have been classified 50 years ago. Today its common to see someone as a morning routine to weigh themselves on a bathroom scale, if the culture that Miner had talked about had accessible personal body scales I’m sure that they would have adopted it in their rituals.

    Also mentioning the Nacerima need for body modifications specifically breast augmentation, today we see that woman still have a desire to change that portion of their body of an “ideal” image by taking sex hormones such as estrogen. Some wealthier women decide on surgical innervation by placing sacks of silicon (or other material) to obtain their goal breast size.

  2. Hannah Porter says:

    I also noticed how the article emphasized the importance of physical appearance in the Nacerima culture. I think the “hog hairs with magical powder” could be similar to brushing your teeth in today’s society. While the importance of having nice teeth is still a prominent concern in today’s lifestyle (if not even more stressed) we also have greater knowledge of the many valuable health benefits of taking care of your teeth. For example I’m sure many of us have gotten a lecture from our dentist on the importance of gum care and how gingivitis can cause tooth loss and potentially lead to other serious health problems by getting into the bloodstream via the infected gums.
    The fasting rituals also caught my attention and I was somewhat surprised to see how the importance of having the “ideal” body type hasn’t changed, and has most likely become even more of an obsession to society since the time this article was published. In today’s world it’s impossible to walk down any aisle of any grocery store or watch TV without hearing about the latest diet fads or low-fat and sugar free options available. While keeping a healthy weight is important it’s scary how obsessed society is with being “thin” and all the eating disorders it has lead to.

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