The readings and videos this week really created a nice picture as to how one can bridge both traditional medicine with more western medical ideals, spiritual vs bodily treatments. When you look at the idea that the question ‘does it work’ can mean anything depending on which culture is asking the question, it really seems to give traditional/spiritual medicine a place in the any medical system. For a lot of tribes, particularly the one in the short 9 minute clip we watched, spiritual dances were used for healing. What I’m seeing cross-culturally, (and this makes sense) is that there is a medical expert that has some sort of relationship with the patients they treat and perform the treatments. What differs cross-culturally is the relationships between patients and experts, but that’s beside the point. I believe that religion has a contribution to healing and medicine. Whether it’s a placebo or not, religion is used as a method of explaining the unexplainable, (as in most cases) and science can be used to simply back up certain claims about different illnesses. The idea that a placebo-type effect being used in both scientific and spiritual medicine really hit me this week. We see that basically all realms of medicine can all come together to agree that the mind really does play a big role in the physical well being of the body. This is fascinating, because it almost goes completely against what we see in western medicine. With our medical system, a lot of times the illness isn’t caused from a mindset but from an outside influence such as radiation or anything along those lines. However, a simple mindset has been proven time and time again to fix certain ailments cross-culturally. That means the question ‘does it work’ actually can be answered yes almost indefinitely in many different medical systems and it can come down simply to the mindset of the patient during treatment. Early in human history, illness was seen as a problematic relationship between humans and the cosmos (universe) (National Center for Cultural Competence). The previously stated idea really ties into our section this week because it shows how humans have used religion and spirituality to view the body and health. They even used science in this argument, saying that relationships are still involved. However the relationships that are being disrupted are relationships between body parts. Even early understandings of medicine have tied spirituality and bio-physical characteristics of healing together and used them interchangeably. So I would say that science, religion, and healing can all work against each other as well as together in many cases. Anthropologists usually answer questions with the answer ‘it depends’ because it truly does depend on the person you’re asking. Does it work? Only the patient knows.
Mind, Body, and Spirit
“Dicussion of Spirituality, Religion, and Healing.” Body/Mind/Spirit. Accessed July 21, 2016. http://nccc.georgetown.edu/body_mind_spirit/discussion_spirituality_healing.html.