During this course, I continued to develop my critical thinking skills and found myself constantly evaluating how I perceived the world. I think the most significant realization I had was that I actually didn’t know as much about my own medical system as I had thought. While it may seem like a bad thing, I actually find the idea to be motivational. It means that I have plenty left to learn (and I enjoy learning), but it also means that there are probably many people who could benefit from the knowledge I will accumulate over the course of my career in medical anthropology. Of course, some topics were more interesting to me than others, in particular the units on mental health and medicalization. I found the information about explanatory models to be especially important because these models are the foundation on which our illness experience and illness narratives are created (Kleinman, 1988 and Lecture 2.1). In truth, I had never really thought about how my perception of illness and my doctor’s interpretation of my narrative interact with each other, or whether that interaction was positive, negative or somewhere in between. I have always just assumed that my doctor and I see illness the same way, which is a pretty big assumption and probably not accurate.
I have two book recommendations that I believe could be beneficial to this course. The first book is Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America: Issues of Class, Race, Ethnicity, & Gender by Hans A. Baer. This book would be a great addition because it takes a critical look at the history of biomedicine in relation to medical pluralism and how biomedicine has secured its position as the dominant healing system in the United States (Baer, 2001). Many interesting systems are covered in this book that are practiced by people of different cultures, such as “Santeria among Cuban Americans” and Naturopathy (Baer, 2001). The second book, titled Complete Guide To Alternative Medicine by William Collinge, gives us a deeper look into many different healing systems from around the world (Collinge, 1996). The systems covered in this text include Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, Naturopathic Medicine, Homeopathy, Mind/Body Medicine, Osteopathic Medicine, Chiropractic and Message Therapy & Bodywork (Collinge, 1996). Both of these books were assigned readings in a previous course I had taken and I found them to be particularly valuable to me in my desire to learn more about the world of medicine from an anthropological standpoint. I have often wondered how other forms of healing worked, if at all, and these books gave me a greater understanding. I also have a video recommendation in the form of a speech given by Arthur Kleinman at UCT (University Cape Town) that did an excellent job portraying the “cynical” world of today (Kleinman, 2013). In his speech, Kleinman explains how our social, political and economic systems construct our cultures and shape our experiences, often to our detriment (Kleinman, 2013). https://www.youtube.com/watch?v=4F308xUBcAY
Baer, Hans A. Biomedicine and Alternative Healing Systems in America: Issues of Class, Race, Ethnicity, and Gender. Madison, WI: University of Wisconsin Press, 2001.
Collinge, William. The American Holistic Health Association Complete Guide to Alternative Medicine. New York, NY: Warner Books, 1996.
Kleinman, Arthur. “Caregiving and Goodness: Their Broader Role in Society.” Speech, Caregiving and Goodness: Their Broader Role in Society, University of Cape Town, Cape Town, South Africa, February 7, 2013.