Experiential Approach

Of the six approaches to medical anthropology, the Experiential model seems to be one primarily concerned with “illness”. Though certainly the other five approaches may address this notion in different ways, I see this approach as especially relevant to my anthropological studies as an aspiring medical professional. In particular the Experiential assessment of medical anthropology may be invaluable to the interpersonal aspect of medical practice. Those who enter into a given hospital ward will invariably present with a certain set of technical symptoms, but only this in concert with an assessment of a given patient’s “illness narrative” will lead to an effective treatment of that individual’s condition. It is worth mentioning also that utilizing the Critical approach to medical anthropology is prerequisite to maintaining an open mind to numerous illness treatment options.

Illness and Disease as they are used in everyday dialogue are nearly interchangeable; however, in a technical sense the subtle difference between the two is crucial. While not entirely self-evident, I think that the distinction is logical and one necessary to make in order to partake in intelligent medical anthropological discussion.

I don’t think that Miner tried terribly hard to hide the true target of his Nacerima article (allusions to George Washington and his cherry tree; the culture’s geographic location between Canada and Mexico etc.). It doesn’t help that I have already known about this writing, so in this way the end was somewhat “spoiled” for me. In any case, the disconnected way in which Miner presents the health obsessions of the everyday American is both revealing and unsettling. Particularly, the “Nacerima“ peoples’ worship over the household charm box reveals a latent and unrelenting paranoid insecurity over their physical health (vaguely defined) as well as their outward appearance. The Nacerima people’s trust in their healers parallels the American idolization of medical authority figures. Further expanding this disturbing metaphor is the depiction of the Nacerima people’s ambivalence toward the latipso, both a place of dread as well as necessary catharsis. Miner’s article expertly assesses the American obsession with “health” and the lengths we all go to attain and prolong it.

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  1. Cherie Griffey says:

    • Hi Matt, I liked how you chose the experimental model because it is relevant to your studies. Your studies and this method have a good relation to each other and I like how you pointed that out. Illness and disease are interchangeable but I think the difference is more than logical. Disease is more so something that you can measure and see that it isn’t healthy. On the other hand an illness is more so like a feeling of not being healthy. Illness can occur due to a disease. Also illness can have a tie with culture while disease is not. Just like you I read this article before so it kind of ruined it for me and I feel as if Miner did not want to hide the fact that he was talking about the American culture. He probably did not want to come out directly and say it, but it was quite interesting how he described it and we all knew what he was talking about without him having to say it. When Miner talked about the Cherry Tree and the graphic location that better helped me to understand which culture he was talking about. Physical health is a big part of the Nacerima culture and it has created insecurities within certain people. As Americans we all go the extra mile to be healthy.

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