The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method

By Lola Romanucci-Ross; Daniel E. Moerman et al. | Go to book overview
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processes taking place as well as a means by which they do so. And medicine is also a necessary idiom with which to negotiate identity, because the political economies of the various medical traditions involve the same social relations that define a person's identity and social and economic standing on the altiplano of Bolivia.

Marvin Harris's seminal treatment of race in Latin America ( 1964) argues that the concept there differs fundamentally from that in the United States. In Latin America race is culturally based, defined by language, dress, and comportment, not by phenotypic or genetic characteristics, as it is in the United States. All evidence I encountered leads to the somewhat different interpretation that, while ethically speaking, Harris is right, discourse engages the concept of genetics. In this article I contend that there is no "racial integrity" whatsoever in Bolivia, that race is a mask for social class, but that the genetic or racial argument inherent within the concept of ethnicity is ubiquitously evident, particularly in medical ideology.
The most comprehensive histories of twentieth-century Bolivia are Dunkerley 1984; Klein 1969; and Kelley and Klein 1981. All three cover the rise of American imperialism as an issue in the MNR revolution of 1952 and its aftermath for very concrete reasons, including the manipulation of the world tin market by the United States to the detriment of Bolivia just after the nationalization of the Bolivian tin mines in 1953. They argue as well, however, that blaming U.S. imperialism for Bolivia's poverty was effectively employed to deflect attention from the demands of the Indians and from the resistance of the revolutionary government to meeting them.
Oblitas Poblete 1963, 112: the khariciri takes the image of a priest, steals fat from the navel, and sells it to indigenous medicine men (callaguayas), who can cure or ensorcell with it.
La Barre 1948, 167: the q'ariq'ari is "an evil spirit incarnated in a body, with a penchant for cutting open the neck of a person and stealing his soul, after which that person sickens and dies." Another version, he says, is that it is "frequent in August . . . steals the heart and puts sand in its place."
Tschopik 1951, 204: the karikari "are spirits of deceased Catholic priests . . . [who] take away all of a man's fat and make soap out of it. They look like Franciscan Fathers."
Aguilo 1982, 122: the "Karisiri" is a white man, a priest or engineer who at night steals blood or fat, for holy oil and for curing.
Personal communication with anthropologists and priests in Peru and Bolivia. Bastien came across the kharisifi among the Kallawaya ( 1987:71) but limits his discussion to how the fat is believed to be extracted.
Here and throughout most of the chapter, the dialogue presented constitutes statements made by individuals, rather than linguistic interchanges between two or more people. That is, the data presented here are statements rather than discussions. However, the fact that these statements are "consumed" or accepted by the parties to whom they are directed implies the nature of the response to the statements presented here and of the discussions that ensued. On that basis I use the term


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The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method
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