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Chapter 7: Medical Anthropology – Shamans & Doctor


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Medical Anthropology
Subfield of socio-cultural anthropology: How different cultures and societies are influenced by issues of health and illness. One of the most highly developed areas of applied anthropology. Examines the cultural limits of biomedicine. Explores ethnomedicine & its practices. Also studies healers ie. Doctors and traditional healers, including Shamans
Ethnomedicine
Study of traditional medicine practiced by various ethnic or cultural groups - especially by indigenous peoples. Includes ritual and story telling. Healers = Shamans
Biomedicine
Also called conventional, scientific, mainstream medicine, or just medicine - especially when compared with traditional medicine or alternative medicine. Contemporary medicine applies biomedical sciences, biomedical research, genetics and medical technology to diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of injury and disease through medication or surgery. Healers = doctors
Shamanism
A practice that involves a practitioner entering altered states of consciousness in order to encounter and interact with the spirit world and channel these other worldly energies into the human world.
Shaman
A person regarded as having access to, and influence in, the spirit world. They enter into a trance state during a ritual, and practice divination and healing. They can also use these powers to harm.
Mircea Eliade
(1907 - 1986) Studied shamanism. Author of "the Myth of the Eternal Return": Humans experience life as sacred & profane
Eternal Return
A term used to express the idea that rituals do not simply celebrate sacred/profane – but to the participant, they embody or actualize the myth or ritual. The myth is brought back to life every time the ritual is enacted. Shamans bring cosmic myths alive by enacting ritual
Cosmology
A theory or conception of the nature of the universe and its workings, and of the place of human beings and other creatures within that order. It serves to orient a community to its world. It defines the place of humankind in the scheme of things. Such cosmic orientation tells the members of a community who they are and where they stand in relation to the rest of creation.
Spiritual Guide
Mediator between the physical and spiritual realms. Retrieves lost souls. Scouting expeditions for lost spirit– quests, journeys. Visit to higher beings – the gods, other realms, leaves the mundane to enter into the sacred.
Psychopomp
Travels between sacred and profane realms. Creatures, spirits, angels, or deities in many religions whose responsibility is to escort newly deceased souls from Earth to the afterlife. Their role is not to judge the deceased, but simply provide safe passage.
Aesculapius
The Greek god of medicine and healing. His symbol was a staff entwined with a snake, which has now become the symbol of medicine in many countries. His daughters included Hygeae and Panacea.
Hermes
A psychopomp - he guided the dead to the Underworld. He moved between the heavens and hell. Some medical and pharmaceutical groups have adopted a staff entwined by two snakes. This is the Caduceus, which was the wand of Hermes.
Health
The normal condition of bodily well-being understood in physical, social and biological terms appropriate to a given group of people.
Sickness
An unwanted condition or threats of such a condition.
Disease
The outward clinical manifestation of sickness identified and defined by biomedicine. It is a broad biomedical concept.
Illness
The human experience and perceptions of alterations in health