The Body, Meaning and Symbols in Medical Anthropology Essay examples

The Body, Meaning and Symbols in Medical Anthropology Essay examples

Length: 1129 words (3.2 double-spaced pages)

Rating: Good Essays

Open Document

Essay Preview

In the course of the study of medicine from an anthropological perspective, there are several themes which are repeatedly encountered. These include the body and its representation, meaning and a person’s response to that meaning, and finally, the symbolic images which construct and shape both meaning and the bodily representation. Each of these themes are addressed throughout medical anthropological texts, and are connected to and build on each other in a variety of ways.
The body is the site of medicine, because the body is the site of all cultural practices. As Byron Good states, “medicine formulates the human body and disease in a culturally distinctive fashion”. (Good, 65) It is the cultural fashion of western medicine to objectify the body by constructing it in purely biochemical and molecular terms. As Shiehisa Kuriyama shows us in his work, this is the result of the historical development of Greek medicine and its intersection with the western scientific sentiment. Kuriyama says, “conceptions of the body owe as much to particular uses of the senses as to particular ‘ways of thinking.’” (Kuriyama, 12) He goes on to explain how a tradition of empiricism and a belief that “only [literal speech] can insure limpid understanding; [figurative speech] is profoundly unreliable” (Kuriyama, 75), informed the development of the western medical culture.
With the obsession with clear and unambiguous language came a set of presuppositions, which, among other things, created a hierarchy of bodily representation. Kuriyama describes this in terms of western obsessions with musculature or the Chinese emphasis on how the skin looks. When the West undertook its various imperialistic projects across the globe this hierarchy of the...

... middle of paper ... for a lack of modernity. Villagers were keenly aware of what the shaman meant not only to their own culture, but also what it meant to those in the transnational space, and their conception changes because of this.
Thus we see how medical anthropology studies and provides analysis on the issues of the body, bodily perception, and the representation of the body, as well as meaning and symbolism. Also we see how medical anthropology takes these interpretations and uses them to critique the system’s practices. The biomedical system largely ignores the social aspects of illness, and this does a disservice to the suffering individual it seeks to restore. It emphasizes a biological reductionism which limits the care it can bring to the person it reconstructs as a patient, and in doing so, it discounts the multiple meanings medical symbols can hold for the patient.

Need Writing Help?

Get feedback on grammar, clarity, concision and logic instantly.

Check your paper »

The Role of Medical Anthropology Essay

- This paper seeks to show the inter-relationship of bio- medical professionals such as doctors and nurses in comparison with medical anthropologists and try to show their relevancy in the healthcare system and their collaboration in inter-professionalism. Medical anthropology is an advancing sub-discipline of anthropology. Medical anthropology is intended to provide a framework, which should enable students to identify and analyze social, cultural, behavioural and environmental factors in relation to health and disease/illness in any given society....   [tags: Medical Anthropology]

Good Essays
940 words (2.7 pages)

Medical Anthropology Essay examples

- Medical Anthropology Introduction and Description: My topic, Medical Anthropology, is a field of study that uses culture, religion, education, economics/infrastructure, history, and the environment as a means to evaluate and understand "cross-cultural perspectives, components, and interpretations of the concept of health" (Society for Medical Anthropology, pg. 1). To further introduce Medical Anthropology, I will reiterate highlights of my previous presentations. Early on in Turkey, I asked each person in our program the following question: "I would like you to tell me about health and what it means to you?" The answers to this question varied widely, making it difficult to define a glo...   [tags: Medicine Culture Environment Essays]

Good Essays
3837 words (11 pages)

Essay on Applying Anthropology to Nursing

- Applying Anthropology to Nursing Medical Anthropology is dedicated to the relationship between human behavior, social life, and health within an anthropological context. It provides a forum for inquiring into how knowledge, meaning, livelihood, power, and resource distribution are shaped and how, in turn, these observable facts go on to shape patterns of disease, experiences of health and illness, and the organization of treatments. It focuses on many different topics including the political ecology of disease, the interface of the micro- and macro-environments that affect health, the politics of responsibility as it relates to health, gender and health, the moral, political and interperso...   [tags: Papers]

Good Essays
1116 words (3.2 pages)

Essay on Healing and Biomedical Practices within Communities

- Medical anthropologists have sought to understand and critique the similarities and differences between the social and cultural authority held by folk healing and biomedical practices. The understanding and critique come from the desire to learn more about relationships between a sick person and a healer/doctor. This relationship is a crucial piece in analyzing how social authority, which “involves the control of action through giving of commands” (Joralemon 2010:69), and cultural authority, which “entails the construction of reality through definitions of fact and value” (Joralemon 2010:69) are formed, used and sustained within a medical community....   [tags: medical anthropology]

Good Essays
919 words (2.6 pages)

Essay about Taking a Look at Medical Anthropology

- Medical anthropology addresses the symbolic, narrative, and ethical dimension of healing, medicine and medical technology in many different ways. One way they address these dimensions is by exploring how local and international communities view wellness, illness, disease and healing through different perspectives. Their goal is to examine how communities are able to function individually as well as look for themes within the structure and systems of different communities between various cultures....   [tags: medical treatment within a community]

Good Essays
620 words (1.8 pages)

Anthropology is Quantitative Essay

- There is a lot of conflict to the question “is anthropology a science?” A lot of this conflict leads from defining what a science is, in the dictionary science is, “a branch of knowledge or study dealing with a body of facts or truths systematically arranged and showing the operation of general laws.” (, 2011) Anything that can be studied is considered a science. Without science anthropology would be nearly impossible to study, science makes everything quantifiable....   [tags: Anthropology ]

Good Essays
959 words (2.7 pages)

Essay about Medical Antropology

- Medical anthropology addresses the symbolic, narrative, and ethical dimension of healing, medicine and medical technology in many ways. One way anthropologists address these dimensions is by exploring how local and international communities view wellness, illness, disease and healing through different perspectives. Their goal is to examine how communities are able to function individually as well as to look for themes within the structure and systems of separate communities and cultures. Anthropologists spend a lot of time observing and discussing the theme of treatment within various communities....   [tags: Medicine, Vitro Fertilization]

Good Essays
888 words (2.5 pages)

Introduction to Medical Anthropology Essay

- Dr. Amanda Swain practices primary care at Student Health Services at the University of Pennsylvania. Swain’s exposure to the medical world began at a young age; she spent extended periods of her childhood in the hospital throughout her father’s illness. She went to Brandeis University with the intention of studying anthropology and archeology. However, after reflecting on her previous experiences in the hospital with her father and briefly shadowing a doctor, Swain ultimately decided to pursue medicine....   [tags: student health services, amanda swain]

Good Essays
2168 words (6.2 pages)

History, Anthropology, And Cultural Anthropology Essay

- Anthropology encompasses four main aspects in the field: archaeology, linguistics, physical anthropology, and cultural anthropology. All four areas must collect data and find a way to interpret the data collected. Data is then interpreted with the use of theories. The data would be useless to any anthropologist without any meaning. Theory helps an anthropologist choose what data to collect and how to interpret the results. Authors McGee and Warms assert that theory “helps us think about who and what we are as human beings,” (2)....   [tags: Anthropology, Culture, Sociology]

Good Essays
1358 words (3.9 pages)

Traditional vs. Modern Society Essay

- Traditional vs. Modern Society In today's world, the modern person is educated, independent and aggressive. To be a success, you must put forth your most competitive side and win it all. Nothing less will be permitted. This is the mindset of most business tycoons, stockbrokers and the like. However, on the other side of the globe, third world countries follow a more traditional lifestyle where the outlook on life is a little less malicious. In these countries, the society's idea of success is being part of a large family with prosperous crops and livestock....   [tags: Anthropology Culture Society Essays]

Good Essays
809 words (2.3 pages)