21:30:17, by admin   . Categories: medical anthropology / ethnobothany

Medicine as power: "Creates new categories of sick people"

Antropython is the name of a blog by a student of anthropology at the University of Oslo. She has started to blog in English (previously only in Polish), so here is an excerpt from an interesting post by her on the power of medicine and how medicine changes our conceptions of the healthy body. Antropyton reviews the article "What do we mean by health?" by anthropologist Veena Das:

My reading of Das is that the emergence of discipline of geriatrics has brought about new definition of a healthy and “normal” body and has caused confusion between individual and social identities. It has also created a new category of sick people – the older ones. New definition of health has caused that aging has been reconceptualized as a disease and the ideology of the perfectly ordered body, which can be achieve through medicaments, as a sign of normalcy dominates the image of life cycle. Behaviour and health conditions, once normal and even noble (Kawagley, Turnbull), have been transformed to disability and this one to sickness that requires medical treatment.

>> read the whole post "Body redefinition & new social statuses"

Interesting reading also her thoughts before going on her first fieldwork


Veena Das: Stigma, Contagion, Defect: Issues in the Anthropology of Public Health

"Ethnographic perspectives needed in discussion on public health care system"

Poverty and health policies: Listening to the poor in Bangladesh

medical anthropology - news archive


Comment from: Patricia [Visitor]

88 million aging baby boomers are increasingly targeted for medical services. Redefining aging as a “disease” expands the market for medical services [osteoporosis scans, plastic surgery], pharmaceuticals [reorganization of medicare drug programs, botox], holistic supplements and services [vitamins, anti-aging treatments], as well as other products [boomer targeted vacations, assisted living communities, retirement investment]

The new focus on geriatrics is no accident, I think. Many are planning to “cash-in” on the boomers. Refocusing the perception of aging as something to be accepted with grace into a “disease” that needs treatment is fueled by capitalism’s view of market forces–many may seek “treatment” for their aging, even if the services are not particularly useful. Since there are so many Boomers this increasing trend will be difficult to ignore.

There may also come a day when you will be able to tell the economic status of an elderly person by how young/old they look. Although much research is now focused on finding a “cure” for aging, I doubt most on fixed incomes will be able to afford it.

2006-05-01 @ 20:12
Comment from: Aleksandra [Visitor]

My my, you are a really good anthrospy, Lorenz! Thank you for adding me to blog list. Btw you are doing amazing job here on web, good luck.

2006-05-01 @ 22:58
Comment from: Aleksandra [Visitor]

oh, and yes, I do agree with you Patricia on the economic dimension of this case.

2006-05-01 @ 23:28
Comment from: [Member]

Hehe, anthrospy… I like that :) Reminds me of another blog I mentioned, she (student in Bergen) really started to panic after I had mentioned her blog ("Help! Now anthropologists might start reading my blog!") :) (only in Norwegian)

Yes, the economic dimensions are crucial here. Important for us to be critical concerning the words / concepts we use.

2006-05-02 @ 02:02

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