Alternative Healing: An Anthropological Analysis
To understand the cultural context of an illness is to be better prepared to treat it. Anthropological approaches to healing highlight what various cultures both prize and abhor. When a culture is appraised for how it handles its sick, the diseased and dying, what is uncovered are the culture's foundational values. The recent surge of interest in alternative healing in the west appears as a direct response to the continued insufficiencies of traditional medicine. Studying how other cultures have categorized and treated their ill provides a framework for understanding how healing functions in an anthropological manner. What this comparative analysis of healing situated in diverse cultures will highlight is that
individuals are most likely to regain their health according to culturally sanctioned norms.
In "Dissecting grafts: The anthropology of the medical uses of the human body" David Le Breton asserts that social attitudes toward the medical or scientific use of the deceased body reveals a great deal about the cultural belief of both individuals and groups (Breton, 1994, p. 95). Breton indicates that dissection and transplants reinforce the social distinction between man and body in western medicine (Breton, 1994, p. 97). Here western resistance to organ-donation can be understood as deriving from their cultural identification of personhood with the body's shape and materiality (Breton, 1994, p. 102). Organ donation is not easily accepted in the west because westerners view their body as an inviolable. Changing cultural perceptions of how the body is viewed allows alternative methods of healing to be practiced across cultural norms.
In "How bodies remember: Social memory and bodily experience of criticism, resistance and delegitimation following China's cultural revolution" Arthur and Joan Kleinman analyze how the social experience of the Chinese Cultural Re...