Culture, Curers, and Contagion: Readings for Medical Social Science

Culture, Curers, and Contagion: Readings for Medical Social Science

Culture, Curers, and Contagion: Readings for Medical Social Science

Culture, Curers, and Contagion: Readings for Medical Social Science

Excerpt

Well-being is a human concern in all societies—in part because humans, like other life forms, are susceptible to illness. René Dubos (1959, 1965) contends that this state of affairs is axiomatic in that organisms must continually adapt (for better or worse) to their total surroundings.It would appear that perfect health is "incompatible with the process of living." Hans Selye (1956) reflects the same sentiment with his assertion that stress is endemic to life and that to realize a full life an individual must experience stress.

The human adjustment to life's stresses and the human concern with health are heightened by that quality which gives Homo sapiens its uniqueness—namely, culture. There is little human behavior that can be seen as truly autonomous, truly independent of culture.Even the manner and the time of rendering a belch are culturally mediated. And since culture is so important to the human condition, it is necessary to examine precisely what we are talking about when we speak of a person's culture. For present purposes it is best to adopt a position that emphasizes cognition. Culture, then, represents the way people perceive and shape their world. It is extrasomatic in the sense that humans are not born with a specific set of perceptual categories; people must learn how to see and interpret things. Indispensable to this learning process is the ability to conceive and use symbols. It is with this special faculty that humans are able to conceptualize and to bestow meaning as well as to express their ideas. One well-known illustration of this faculty is that only humans can distinguish between plain and holy water.

Effective communication of such human products as thoughts, ideas, innovations, and values is also basic to the concept of culture. Effective communication can be accomplished only when there is at least some sharing of behaviors, images, and ideas. If humans are indeed culture‐ bearing animals, they are by no means all bearers of the same culture. Part of the reason that health is a human concern may be that it can be . . .

Search by... Author
Show... All Results Primary Sources Peer-reviewed

Oops!

An unknown error has occurred. Please click the button below to reload the page. If the problem persists, please try again in a little while.