The Anthropology of Medicine: From Culture to Method

By Lola Romanucci-Ross; Daniel E. Moerman et al. | Go to book overview

19
"MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY": CONVERGENCE OF MIND AND EXPERIENCE IN THE ANTHROPOLOGICAL IMAGINATION

LOLA ROMANUCCI-ROSS, DANIEL E. MOERMAN, AND LAURENCE R. TANCREDI

There is an uneasy fit of the biomedical into anthropological discourse. Medical discourse also finds integrating "the cultural" problematic. It often seems very difficult to translate things from one domain to the other; the organization, style, and sense of what is important differ between the two fields.

Works that claim to be biocultural anthropology seem usually to be mainly "bio" with a few inserts of the cultural here and there. The primary reason for this, we think, is that the "bio" aspect is the more quantifiable part, and thus appears more scientific, more manageable, less subject to challenge in an argument. Such quatified material is reified as data.

In the older anthropological tradition we had, in contrast, a more apparently intuitive ethnographic method, tribal studies and peasant studies. Subsequently we became somewhat more statistical, then we became ethnoscolars, and have since become interpretative. From this tradition in anthropology, how can we carry out an anthropology of biology or medicine and in that exercise emerge with a genuine appreciation of biomedical systems and, as well, learn the possible levels of integration of biomedical phenomena with cultural phenomena? A medical event is both biological and cultural, and since investigators are usually aligned with one aspect or the other of such an event, the simultaneity of the two aspects needs to be acknowledged. Integrating facts from the two realms of knowing has not been, and will not be, accomplished easily while we search for cause and effect. In this chapter we will first discuss the stance of an exponent of the biocultural approach as currently conceived. This will be followed by a consideration of rhetoric and intentionality in the physical sciences; we will then

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