Healing Logics: Culture and Medicine in Modern Health Belief Systems

Healing Logics: Culture and Medicine in Modern Health Belief Systems

Healing Logics: Culture and Medicine in Modern Health Belief Systems

Healing Logics: Culture and Medicine in Modern Health Belief Systems

Synopsis

Scholars in folklore and anthropology are more directly involved in various aspects of medicine--such as medical education, clinical pastoral care, and negotiation of transcultural issues--than ever before. Old models of investigation that artificially isolated "folk medicine," "complementary and alternative medicine," and "biomedicine" as mutually exclusive have proven too limited in exploring the real-life complexities of health belief systems as they observably exist and are applied by contemporary Americans. Recent research strongly suggests that individuals construct their health belief systmes from diverse sources of authority, including community and ethnic tradition, education, spiritual beliefs, personal experience, the influence of popular media, and perception of the goals and means of formal medicine. Healing Logics explores the diversity of these belief systems and how they interact--in competing, conflicting, and sometimes remarkably congruent ways. This book contains essays by leading scholars in the field and a comprehensive bibliography of folklore and medicine.

Excerpt

Erika Brady

Sometimes the attraction of a field of study emerges naturally and predictably within the ivied structure of an academic setting; sometimes it ambushes you from an unanticipated stronghold. in the course of many years of academic training in folklore, I never regarded medical folklore as a specialty. Although my office as a graduate student at ucla adjoined that of Wayland Hand, the distinguished American taxonomist of medical folklore, his room-length boxes of file cards and the boundless store of arcane tidbits painstakingly organized struck me at the time as more exotic than relevant to contemporary ethnography. It was not until the early 1980s, when I unexpectedly assumed the duties of a part-time chaplain associate at a midsize hospital in southeast Missouri that I began to see the implications of my training for work in a hospital setting, and grasped the emerging significance of efforts by folklorists and anthropologists in other medical institutions nationwide.

Cape Girardeau, Missouri, is located on the Mississippi River, at the intersection of several cultural regions marked by distinctive vernacular health systems: to the west, the richly diverse biome of the Ozark Plateau has produced a notable heritage of herbal treatment; to the south, the Missouri Bootheel is an economic and social extension of the Mississippi Delta, with flourishing practice of rootwork derived from West African patterns. Most consistent of all, so deeply taken for granted that it escapes notice as a traditional health belief system, is the profound, almost universal assumption that soul and body are linked in some larger pattern of meaning that should be acknowledged, and can even be altered, by prayer. As a chaplain specializing in oncology, I learned to recognize the verbal rhythms that preceded ecstatic trance in Pentecostal patients. I lit candles for Catholics, and obtained permission for holy medals to accompany them into surgery. From patients of all social backgrounds I heard the many . . .

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