W3 Reflection: Clown Doctors in NYC

I chose to reflect upon Clown Doctors in NYC. The New York Times multimedia slide-show closely examines the practices of Hmong Shamans while also exposing the interaction between traditional practices and western medicine. Shamans in Hmong culture could be viewed as a holy healer in the simplest of terms. In western culture consider them to be part priest and part doctor. However no true similar comparison exists because the practices of a Shaman are viewed as a unified spiritual healer. The medicine, which the Shaman gives and the rituals they perform are grounded in the belief that it will cure and prevent any and all ailments. The Hmong peoples living in New York City featured in the photojournalism story are receiving westernized medicine with the supervision and additional treatment provided by their Shaman. Shamans are certified and able to travel freely throughout the hospital to visit and treat their patients.

A ritual performed to protect an infant from evil spirits is also performed in the article. Through a series of offerings, sacrifices, and burnings, a newborn is protected from any spirit of ill intent. The Shaman is carrying out the rituals to not only protect the child but also as a form of preventative treatment so that further, more difficult rituals are not required in the future.

Lastly a man suffering from diabetes lies bedridden in the hospital. The bedridden man has his right arm decorated with articles of western medicine. The medical tools include, a hospital identifier bracelet, a catheter and an IV pump. A single woven cloth bracelet provided by a certified Shaman decorates the other arm. This image is particularly revealing of Hmong practices. It shows that for many Hmong people, their lives are split into two facets. One facet is deeply spiritual and the other scientific. To them, their spiritual beliefs and Shaman provided rituals are equally, if not more important, than western medical treatment. This dichotomy is truly astonishing.

One thought on “W3 Reflection: Clown Doctors in NYC

  1. Hey Natasha. After reading your post, I found that you analyzed some pretty interesting topics from the article titled “Clown Doctors in NYC.” As you know, these “doctors” have been added into health care environments in order to add a new strategy of healing by means of making patients laugh and be happy. In comparison to biomedical doctors, I would not put the clown doctors in NYC in the same category. Sure, they help out patients in detrimental times, but they do not have the medical certification and/or abilities to implement healing strategies such as surgery or providing prescription medication. This is obviously debatable, but it is just my opinion.

    In terms of the clown doctors being legitimate, I think they absolutely are. Although they are unable to physical care for and provide a cure for patients, they offer a different way of healing by making the patients going through tough times laugh and are happy. This kind of goes along with the term that “laughter is the best medicine.” This program was first implemented in the year 1986, and I believe the clown doctors have gained respect and legitimacy by their methods, and having access to many resources in these environments.

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