Anthropologists have three main ways of looking at the culture of biomedicine. First is the institutional history of biomedicine which describes how biological facts change over time. Next is the language of biomedicine and how social values and ideologies are re-conceptualized in a more scientific manor. Last are the rituals of biomedicine in which anthropologists look at ill individuals in places like clinics. Through germ theory, fundamental genetics, and pharmaceutical use, the way we as society look at our specific culture of biomedicine has changed in a big way. Without an individual ideology for how medicine is used in ones specific culture, we would have a much more difficult time diagnosing the illness at hand.

In my opinion, dichotomy simply comes from two separate sides of a specific spectra. In many cases, dichotomy comes from a specific social class you are considered to be apart of. With that, a certain culture may consider someone to be sick based of individual judgement of themselves whereas another culture may only consider one sick once diagnosed as such by a medical professional. In a culture with more poverty, it may be more likely for someone to consider one self sick without acknowledgement from a local doctor and without knowing the specific source of illness.

With dichotomy, either something is one way or it is the opposite. In the case of sick and healthy persons in western society, I believe it comes down to ones clarification of their own negative well-being versus how they feel well considering themselves healthy. Much of society has a feeling inside of what they consider healthy and without this “normal” sense of self, an individual can then be considered sick (such as a cold whereas most people do not seek medical help).

Sickness becomes much more logical to society once diagnosed by a medical practitioner. Generally, Western society tends to trust and rely on a health professional for diagnosis and even more so when the illness can be diagnosed by specific name known to most of society (i.e. influenza, chicken-pox, ect.).


This Post Has 2 Comments

  1. Shelby Brewington says:

    In my opinion this is a very important dichotomy. If a health professional does not understand or want to acknowledge the ideas of what one person considers sick and one considers healthy, they may not be able to effectively treat the patient in a way that the patient feels comfortable with. Some might go into the doctor saying that they are healthy even though they are over weight because they still feel fine, and are happy. However, a doctor might look at them and categorize them as unhealthy because they have a heavy risk of developing type II diabetes. They must be able to recognize patients differing view points when it comes to the perspective of health and sickness in order to present information to them in a manner that does not insult, hurt, or scare them. They must be able to distinguish their medical perspective from the patients. If medical professionals instead only take their ideas for fact, they risk compromising the patients health further because the patient might not seek their medial help or advise because they themselves still do not understand or see the medical professionals stance. Health and sickness can be multiculturally defined. This is something medical professionals must be aware of.

  2. Jaana Ashtiani says:

    The dichotomy of sick and healthy is one of significant importance not only in our Western culture, but throughout the world. The entire medical society is based on differentiating between these two opposite sides of the spectra and determining what kind of medical attention each patient needs. It is also important to be able to differentiate between the severity of illness that each patient brings in. The importance of such words also lies within their meanings and the connotations that they have within each culture or society. Each culture has within it its own ideas of illness and health, of disease and sickness, and what the necessary healing process that is required for each. The danger lies within the idea that clinicians may take this dichotomy for fact and not realize that it is dependent on the culture it is being viewed in. While viewing the ideas of sickness and health clinicians MUST be aware of the societal context in order to be able to provide the best care possible without risking going against cultural ideals and expectations. Also, without taking into consideration the cultural/background of the patient at hand, clinicians cannot know whether the symptoms they are dealing with are even considered to be an illness in that society at all.

Leave a Reply