Anthropological Perspective on Illness and Healing
Illness and disease have challenged the whole world so profoundly and sickness has apparently become a crucial element governing the shells of the poor. Consequently, medical anthropologists became keener upon taking a closer look, or rather a holistic analysis, of the association that exists amidst the health and wellbeing of the mankind and the culture. The basic intention of taking a holistic approach towards anthropology is the premise that human behavior and human health ascends out of a multifaceted interface happening within the cultural structures. This encompasses the health and wellbeing of the human society at large, among others.
Anthropology, as a field of social science offers an insightful understanding of issues like humankind, civilization, human existence, looking at humanity holistically as well as human health. Within the cultural structure, this comprises of aspects like health and wellbeing of the human society, among other things.
Medical Anthropology is related to the practice and experiences of health, illness, and healing in various social and cultural backgrounds. Being one of the most rapidly developing and emergent sub-disciplines in the field of medicine, medical anthropology looks into both conventional healing as well as contemporary medical expertise. It essentially deals with the way the various forms of healing handle both ancient ills as well as evolving health issues that are more connected with social change.
According to Robert Hahn, the author of the famous book Sickness and Healing: An Anthropological Perspective, Sickness and Healing have predominantly two fundamental goals; the first being to detail the rich perspective brought in by the study of anthropology for understanding the various cultural variations with respect to people’s beliefs about health and illness; and second is the understanding that this field of study offers about the symptoms of the various diseases.
Since the mid-1960s, the study of medical anthropology has evolved into three predominant angles. The first one is the Medical ecology that regards populations as natural as well as cultural components and it essentially studies the collaborations happening in the entire ecological systems, health, and the evolution of the human kind. The second is the Ethno medical analysis whose focus is upon the cultural systems of healing along with focus upon the various cognitive factors of the illness. The third and the last orientation is the applied medical anthropology that essentially deals with aspects like intermediation, avoidance, and the policy issues along with focus on the analysis of the socioeconomic forces and power disparities influencing access to healthcare. In this triplet, filed of cultural anthropology is more closely connected to ethno medicine. In the seminal years, a few anthropologists preferred classifying the field as "ethno medicine," while others chose to term it as "anthropology of health." “The term "medical anthropology prevailed, however, coming to represent a diversified range of orientations.”
The explanation and reasoning behind the occurrence of illness and disease has different definitions among different global cultures, societies, and even individuals. Likewise, the methods that are accepted for curing illnesses too vary ominously. One way of appreciating an accepted cure for illness in one culture may not be accepted in a different culture. Yet, one must be in a position to distinguish between the illness as well as the disease and also the ways in which these two differ relatively.
Illness, in one way, “can be defined as a feeling of not being normal and healthy while disease is an objectively measurable condition of the body.” In several cases alternatively, the perceptions towards illness are more related to one’s culture. In this understanding, illness is ethically, conventionally, defined and understood by the custom and culture.
The reasons behind illness and disease may be traced back to both the social and the spiritual realms related to the anthropology perspectives. This occasionally sounds false and very much confrontational to others; however, the reality behind this issue is that these spiritual and/or the social realms roots of disease encompass spiritual interference. It is a fact, besides, that all the physical or the tangible assets expresses in the spirit world prior to becoming physical.
A few factors of illness or disease can be traced to the power of differentials and also the resource distribution and access to healthcare in few societies, as stated by anthropologists like Townsend in the field of applied medical anthropology. This approach evaluates the biomedical practice and the disparities in power and influential knowledge of the physician and the patient and the way in which illness would affect the significant. Clinical anthropology has been prejudiced by the writings of Michel Foucault that is based more upon the ancient fabrication of medical knowledge and the belief that the body can transform into an arena where social control issues can act.
The reasons behind illness are very much remarkable in view of medical anthropology. It is important that the reasons of illness and disease must be comprehended appropriately and not isolated from the conventional beliefs, principles and values that people generally attach themselves with. Medical anthropology, as a supplement of cultural anthropology must offer increased understanding about the various health issues stemming out of several ideologies related to the lushness and abundance of global cultures. Such abundance of knowledge and information must be included into the existing literature related to culture and be acknowledged for the purpose of enculturation of the coming generations.
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