W7: The “Anthro-Psychologist”

Although I initially thought this course wouldn’t relate at all to my major, I’ve found a lot of the topics translate very well to psychology. In other words, the injustices that are suffered by non-whites and/or non-Americans in relation to health care are not limited only to medical treatment, but extend to psychological treatment as well. The terms non-white and non-American are used together here for an important reason. First of all we know that race as we know it is a social construct, and therefore “white” as it applies here is really a subjective term (Hunt, Truesdell 2013). However only using the term “non-American” would also be incorrect, because some of the people marginalized are American citizens, but come from rich ethnic backgrounds with different religious or spiritual beliefs and methods of healing.

I believe refugees are the ones most negatively effected by Western medicine, because unlike willing immigrants they may be completely unaware of what practices are openly acceptable. In the video “The Split Horn” the narrator, a young Hmong girl, expresses that her family wasn’t even sure if they were allowed to practice their religion in the U.S. when they arrived. This leads to people either not knowing how to seek proper medical care, or simply refusing to because the Western doctors may not accept the practices of minority groups that they are unfamiliar with. This too, translates to mental health. In The Spirit Catches You I would be willing to bet Lia’s mother, if not more members of the family, suffered from one or more treatable conditions. For example, she shows signs of major depression and possibly PTSD, which is very common for refugees. However it is unlikely she would ever receive the care she needed, because at the time people were less willing to accept that the Western medical model is flawed when it comes to people of different beliefs.

A study published in 2010 highlights the most effective psychological treatment for refugees, focusing on PTSD, but also including depression, anxiety and more. Studies like this are immensely important to ensure that these people live the best lives they can (Murray et al. 2010). These are the kinds of things I will be sure to look out for later in grad school and when I have a career in the psychology field. I will be sure to create an explanatory model for myself that encompasses all of the things we learned in this course. The first week, on cultural impact, taught me that the factors that affect mental health are much more vast than I initially realized. For example, the study done on Arabic-named women in California shows that although there may not have been acts of violence happening to these women directly, the notion of the acts had an impact on their physical self. (Lauderdale, 2006). Therefore you can imagine the incredible impact it must have had on mental health.

From reading Fadiman’s book and understanding Lia Lee’s story, I am better prepared to create my own explanatory model. Prior to this class I felt that Western medicine essentially had the right idea with a lot of concepts. Now I see that the medical model utilized by many physicians in the U.S. doesn’t give any merit to cultural differences, and some practitioners tend to view patients as machines rather than unique and complex humans (Van Hollen, 2002). In conclusion, almost all concepts discussed in this course will in some way effect my career. However, some will bleed into daily life as well. Learning that race is a social construct really changed the way I view the world in terms of racial violence and prejudice. I believe this class has made me a more accepting person, with more patience when dealing with cultural barriers. Since the course started I’ve become increasingly interested in the cultures of the people around me, and that is truly a beautiful thing.

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997

Hunt, L. M., and N. Truesdell. “Anthropology of Race: Genes, Biology, and Culture.” Edited by John H. Relethford. Am. J. Hum. Biol. American Journal of Human Biology 26, no. 3 (2014): 83-106.

Lauderdale, Diane S. “Birth Outcomes for Arabic-Named Women in California Before and After September 11.” 43, no. 1 (2006): 185-201

Van Hollen, Cecilia. “Medical Anthropology Quarterly.” Invoking Vali: Painful Technologies of Modern Birth in South India, June 24, 2002


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