The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method

By Lola Romanucci-Ross; Daniel E. Moerman et al. | Go to book overview
Save to active project

became a primary focus of exchange. Even though the Spanish used the Galenic binary structure of hot and cold, whereas the Aztecs classified plants by their uses, both groups found plants useful as food, medicine, and ornament. Aztec epidemiology and pharmacology fused with Greek and Galenic views; in time, the Mexican folk-medicine system emerged, perhaps the most fully syncretic medical system known.

In contrast, in the Admiralty Islands (Manus) of New Guinea during the 1960s, curative practices appeared to involve a critical usage of Western medical resources that fell into patterns of acculturative and counteracculturative sequences (see Romanucci-Ross 1977). For the more traditional Manus, Western medicine excelled in lower-level descriptions of disease; it was, however, incomplete and did not admit to multiple etiology in a bio-socialmoral frame. One could predict which cures would be selected by knowing where the family or individual stood on the acculturation gradient. There was also a general attempt to match "whiteman's medicine" with "whiteman's diseases."

Crandon-Malamud gives us an illustration of illness and medicine as a trope to make statements about social relations. Medical dialogue occurring in a pluralistic and stratified society may often provide a context for the construction and negotiation of ethnic identity among Aymara Indians and mestizos in a rural Bolivian village on the altiplano. Diagnostic opinions are simultaneously statements about a condition, the sick person, the person delivering the opinion, and nosological and etiological categories deriving from the various medical traditions in the culture (Indian, folk, and Western).

These cases represent a range of medical interactions. The Mexican case represents a fully syncretic system; the Italian case represents a stable, unshakable one; and the Bolivian case demonstrates that medical choices are often driven by narratives that affirm or create ethnic identity. Exactly what determines the ultimate outcome of the interaction of medical systems is not yet clear. However, it is clear that this interaction is a complex and difficult one, not susceptible to facile prediction.


Martin C. 1978. Keepers of the Game: Indian-Animal Relationships and the Fur Trade. Berkeley: University of California Press.

Romanucci-Ross Lola. 1977. "The Hierarchy of Resort in Curative Practices: The Admiralty Islands, Melanesia". In Culture, Disease, and Healing. David Landy, ed. New York: Macmillan, 481-86.

Tanner Adrian. 1979. Bringing Home Animals: Religious Ideology and Mode of Production among Mistassini Cree Hunters. New York: St. Martin's Press.


Notes for this page

Add a new note
If you are trying to select text to create highlights or citations, remember that you must now click or tap on the first word, and then click or tap on the last word.
Loading One moment ...
Project items
Cite this page

Cited page

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited page

Bookmark this page
The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method
Table of contents

Table of contents



Text size Smaller Larger
Search within

Search within this book

Look up

Look up a word

  • Dictionary
  • Thesaurus
Please submit a word or phrase above.
Print this page

Print this page

Why can't I print more than one page at a time?

While we understand printed pages are helpful to our users, this limitation is necessary to help protect our publishers' copyrighted material and prevent its unlawful distribution. We are sorry for any inconvenience.
Full screen
/ 400

matching results for page

Cited passage

Citations are available only to our active members.
Sign up now to cite pages or passages in MLA, APA and Chicago citation styles.

Cited passage

Welcome to the new Questia Reader

The Questia Reader has been updated to provide you with an even better online reading experience.  It is now 100% Responsive, which means you can read our books and articles on any sized device you wish.  All of your favorite tools like notes, highlights, and citations are still here, but the way you select text has been updated to be easier to use, especially on touchscreen devices.  Here's how:

1. Click or tap the first word you want to select.
2. Click or tap the last word you want to select.

OK, got it!

Thanks for trying Questia!

Please continue trying out our research tools, but please note, full functionality is available only to our active members.

Your work will be lost once you leave this Web page.

For full access in an ad-free environment, sign up now for a FREE, 1-day trial.

Already a member? Log in now.

Are you sure you want to delete this highlight?