Theories of Illness: A World Survey

Theories of Illness: A World Survey

Theories of Illness: A World Survey

Theories of Illness: A World Survey

Excerpt

To my family physician -- and presumably to most readers -- medicineis viewed as applied science, or more specifically as applied humanbiology. But to Johnny Quinn, the highly respected shaman whoserved as my principal informant among the Tenino Indians ofOregon, medicine was regarded quite differently -- not as science inany sense but as applied religion. Most of the world's inhabitantsincluding not a few members of our own society, for example, thosewho prefer prayer to penicillin, find themselves in much closer agreement with the medicine man than with the man of medicine.

This paradox of the contrast and overlap between medicine andreligion has long fascinated me and, indeed, was among the attractions which first drew me into anthropology. My decision to investigate the theories by which man has sought to explain illness stemsmore from scientific curiosity than from any particular identificationwith the emerging field of medical anthropology. The exploratorycharacter of this book has led to a number of serendipitous discoveries,which have contributed to its somewhat unorthodox order of presentation. It begins with a typology of the theories of illness encounteredin a world survey, continues with an exposition of my theoreticalorientation and methodology, then analyzes the geographical distribution of the major supernatural concepts of illness, and finallyattempts to account scientifically for their occurrence, incidence, andperpetuation. I have also permitted myself occasionally to interjectmaterials that seem pertinent and illuminating on subjects other . . .

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