Anthropology - illness and healing take home exam Essay

Submitted By cailynbrown
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ANTH202 Illness and Healing
Take Home Exam
Cailyn Brown | 42886562

Question 1: Provide a short analysis of the main issues raised in each lecture (12 lectures), and consider how these issues contribute to a broader understanding of the concept of ‘illness’.

Question 2: What does the concept of health promotion imply? What does it say about our understanding of health and illness? How are these ideas connected to our obsessive concern with body image?

Question 1: Provide a short analysis of the main issues raised in each lecture (12 lectures), and consider how these issues contribute to a broader understanding of the concept of ‘illness’.
Like pieces of a puzzle, each lecture has provided a valuable contribution to a broader understanding of the multi-faceted concept of illness. The purpose of this essay is to analyse the way in which pre-conceived ideas about health, disease and the human body were challenged to establish an underlying theme: more than what is happening in the body, illness must be considered in terms of its social, cultural, symbolic and political aspects to achieve a holistic understanding. Initially we explored beliefs and practices within exotic cultures in order to question what we consider to be normal or abnormal. Here a valuable insight was gained – through the process of studying different approaches to illness and healing, and the way they derive power and legitimacy from cultural systems of meaning we are able to apply a critical way of thinking to practices within our own culture. Thus through the lectures the familiar became foreign, and the foreign familiar. Much like Horace Minor (1956) in his ‘Body Rituals among the Nacirema’, with the objective of seeing our own practices from the perspective of an outsider we gain a different view on what was initially taken for granted, revealing the underlying complexity of social, symbolic and political factors within our own model.

An invaluable tool in gaining a broader understanding of the concept of illness was observing the way in which different cultures have different ways of experiencing and treating illness. One aspect of this was the study of different notions of causality. Beliefs about causality, stemming from culturally constructed world-views, can be incredibly revealing in terms of how different cultures understand people and their place in the world. Furthermore it illustrates how healing practices, naturally responding to beliefs about causality, are established on cultural systems of understanding. For example, in a cosmomorphic Temiar world view where human, animal and plant souls are all interconnected and regularly mingle, healing systems which treat soul parts that may be displaced, make use of spirit guides and healing sounds that are meaningful within their cultural system (Roseman 1990). We can make similar observations in systems of healing we may be familiar with in the West, such as Ayurveda – the traditional Indian model of healing in which causality, inseparable from traditional, spiritual beliefs and world-view, is seen to be an imbalance of the elements. Notions of causality are also examinable in Evans-Pritchard’s (1976) account of Azande practice where it can be observed that healing practices are deeply lodged in this broader system of cultural meaning. In this ethnography we see that illness as it is experienced within the body is not separate from other experiences of misfortune. In Azande culture witchcraft is used to provide an understanding of the world and why bad things happen. If you are struck by unexplainable misfortune, you have been cursed by a witch and must consult an oracle to determine who has cursed you and why. Thus, in addition to addressing the moral aspect of dis-ease, witchcraft provides a framework through which people can reflect upon themselves and their social relations. This notion of causality links