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This page is useful for any student enrolled in Anthropology and Archaeology courses where cross-disciplinary medical or biological information is needed. For a detailed description of the subfield Medical Anthropology, scroll down.
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What is Medical Anthropology?
What is Medical Anthropology?
Medical Anthropology is a subfield of anthropology that draws upon social, cultural, biological, and linguistic anthropology to better understand those factors which influence health and well being (broadly defined), the experience and distribution of illness, the prevention and treatment of sickness, healing processes, the social relations of therapy management, and the cultural importance and utilization of pluralistic medical systems.
The discipline of medical anthropology draws upon many different theoretical approaches. It is as attentive to popular health culture as bioscientific epidemiology, and the social construction of knowledge and politics of science as scientific discovery and hypothesis testing. Medical anthropologists examine how the health of individuals, larger social formations, and the environment are affected by interrelationships between humans and other species; cultural norms and social institutions; micro and macro politics; and forces of globalization as each of these affects local worlds.
Medical anthropologists study such issues as:
Health ramifications of ecological “adaptation and maladaptation”
Popular health culture and domestic health care practices
Local interpretations of bodily processes
Changing body projects and valued bodily attributes
Perceptions of risk, vulnerability and responsibility for illness and health care
Risk and protective dimensions of human behavior, cultural norms and social institutions
Preventative health and harm reduction practices
The experience of illness and the social relations of sickness
The range of factors driving health, nutrition and health care transitions
Ethnomedicine, pluralistic healing modalities, and healing processes
The social organization of clinical interactions
The cultural and historical conditions shaping medical practices and policies
Medical practices in the context of modernity, colonial, and post-colonial social formations
The use and interpretation of pharmaceuticals and forms of biotechnology
The commercialization and commodification of health and medicine
Disease distribution and health disparity
Differential use and availability of government and private health care resources
The political economy of health care provision.
The political ecology of infectious and vector borne diseases, chronic diseases and states of malnutrition, and violence
The possibilities for a critically engaged yet clinically relevant application of anthropology
Courtesy of the Society for Medical Anthropology, a Section of the American Anthropological Association