Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective

Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective

Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective

Medical Anthropology in Ecological Perspective


The third edition of this classic text in medical anthropology has been revised to reflect new developments in theory and research. In theory, it addresses new thinking about political ecology and critiques older theoretical approaches. AIDS is a prominent topic in this new edition, as are other timely issues such as disability, medical pluralism, and health care seeking behavior. The authors have also expanded the number of health profiles to include migrant worker health, famine in the Horn of Africa, and paleopathology in the southwestern United States.


Medical anthropology has remained a growth industry in the years since our first revision of this text. What impressed us most in reviewing the field for this edition is the excellence of this new research. In the first edition many research topics were represented by citation of work outside anthropology plus our own wishful thinking about what anthropology might contribute. Now these topics are covered by mature research by a medical anthropologist. We have, in effect, observed a new generation of well-trained biocultural anthropologists transform conceptual models in empirical research of high quality. This research has been linked to a developing engagement with theory that we have reflected here in a new section on theory in Chapter 2 as well as in other parts of the text. As we have watched the parent discipline fracture into increasingly hostile factions, we have been pleased that in medical anthropology, a four-field anthropology thrives because the most interesting problems require that we keep the biological, political-economic, and symbolic/cultural equally in mind.

In preparing this edition we inevitably have been influenced by what has been going on in our professional lives. McElroy's revisits to the Arctic in 1992 and 1994 are apparent in the updating of the Inuit profile in Chapter 8. Several training projects under her direction, including a ten-year study of migrant farmworker health and another project on traumatic brain injury, are reflected in the increased coverage of health care in the text. Townsend's work as director of a refugee resettlement agency and related trips to Africa have brought her into close relationship with refugees of many nationalities who have experienced painful violations of their human rights. This pain is reflected in an increased emphasis here on the political/military threats to human survival.

We have each served on the boards of professional associations recently -- the Society for Applied Anthropology and the Society for Medical Anthropology -- bringing us into contact with colleagues who have been very generous in their help, sharing both their ideas and their photographs. Most recently we have been helped by Janice Boddy, Carole Browner, Napoleon Chagnon, David Himmelgreen, Margaret Lock, Debra Martin, Emilio Moran, Mimi Nichter, Catherine Panter-Brick, Nancy Romero-Daza, Arthur Rubel, and Phillips Stevens, Jr. Our students' expression of interest has influenced the text; they have urged us to expand the coverage of paleopathology disabilities, AIDS, ethnomedicine, and medical pluralism. We are grateful to Dean Birkenkamp for his patience and encouragement and to Kellie Masterson, who persuaded us to undertake the third edition. Her faith in us gave a sense of focus in an otherwise centrifugal enterprise.

Ann McElroy Patricia K. Townsend . . .

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