Nonwestern medical models

John Mcreery (jlm@TWICS.COM)
Mon, 6 Jun 1994 21:56:54 JST

Barbara Ruth Campbell writes,

"May I interrupt the discussion on jobs in anthropology for a moment
and ask John Mcreery and the rest of the members of ANTHRO-L if
anyone has collected any data in the course of doing funded fieldwork
or anthropological observation because that is what we've all been
trained to do - on:

world views about healing, the treatment of disease and the cause of
disease and accidents"

In 1969-71, I spent about a year and a half as the disciple of a Taoist
healer in Taiwan. Reading Mike Salovesh' post about his experience in
Chiapas, I'm reminded a lot of the situation I encountered in Taiwan.
Chinese themselves articulate a distinction between Chinese and Western
Medicine and various forms of spiritual healing. Some may say that they
strictly adhere to one or another. Far more common is an empirical approach
to illness that consists of trying out several different approaches at once

My favorite example is a neighbor who claimed to know how to cure the
"Canadian flu," i.e., what we called "Asian flu." He prescribed (1)
an herbal tea concocted by his grandmother; (2) two tetracycline capsules
(readily available over the counter in the town where I was doing
fieldwork); and (3) a bottle of a softdrink called "American Apple Sidra."
It was also common for "Western-style" doctors to prescribe several different
drugs at once along with a shot of some kind for whatever ailment was brought
to their attention. My only problem with the "Try Western medicine for
physical efficacy and spiritual healing to deal with other factors" model
of anthropological explanation is that I didn't see the Chinese I worked
with oscillating cleaning from one to another alternative. They were throwing
a variety into the pot to see what happened; rather like cooking a Chinese

John McCreery (JLM@TWICS.COM)