If anthropology is the study of culture’s impact on humanity, then medical anthropology is the study of how cultural views of health and disease, illness and recovery vary among people all over the world.
How we perceive and define illness and wellness is as important to our states of being as any pathogen, trauma or depression. These defined states are known as constructed realities, especially when there is widespread cultural agreement among entire societies.
Medical anthropologists work within both conventional health care settings and in the field doing ethnographic research. Ethnography is research that focuses on people in native settings.
Most of the health challenges today–from maintaining a healthy diet to coping with a sedentary, stressful job–are culturally-bound issues. Individuals have an easier time making positive changes when supported by their culture.
Dr. Jordan’s work as a Global Medicine Hunter allows her to examine medicine
from a variety of cultural viewpoints–whether it is medicine derived from ritual, energy work, botanicals, drugs, entheogens, movement, prayer, surgery, bodywork, non-ordinary ways of knowing, or love and belonging.
In studying the world’s various healing modalities, she has deciphered a Four-Quadrant Healing approach that resides at the foundation of each system; healers either fix energy, fix matter, allow energy, or allow matter, or function from some combination of these practices. She has mapped how the numerous alternative and complementary healing modalities effectively fit into a system of health triage when organized around this quadrant algorithm.
Dr. Jordan’s work as a behavioral medicine specialist helps people adjust their immediate environments as well as their inner psycho-emotional terrain to make lasting, positive changes.
“More than anything, what medical anthropology has taught me is to honor wholeness and interconnectedness, and understand how every intervention is holistic in its impact, affecting person, place and planet.”
THE HEALING CIRCLE: An Ethnography of the History and Context of Human Interaction Within Integrative Medicine
Available at ProQuest, UMI Number 3034515
Margaret Alice Jordan
This ethnographic study explores an innovative experiment within the evolving field of integrative medicine known as the healing circle , as developed by a group of biomedical and alternative health practitioners in northern California. The original intent of the circle was to surmount the perceived shortcoming in many integrative clinics of trivializing alternative healing practices as mere treatment options, under the auspices of biomedicine. The practitioners sought to create a more level playing field, in which an actual blending or harmonizing of disparate medical world views could be accomplished. The goal was to better serve patients with complex chronic disease by offering them an expanded array of healing options, a generous time for hearing their narratives, and the convenience of receiving viewpoints from practitioners of multiple modalities (e.g., ayurvedic, traditional Chinese medicine, herbalism, homeopathy) in one place, at one time. What emerged in this well-intended effort were escalating tensions and difficulties inherent in the attempt to negotiate understandings of widely opposing philosophies and epistemologies. Lack of skills and awareness in communicating, negotiating, and mediating among different disciplines derailed their best efforts. The resulting tension that arose from unreconciled differences was avoided about half-way through this fieldwork, as the core group of circle practitioners abandoned this multiple modality approach for one in which the milieu was strictly intended to facilitate the meaning of the client’s illness. This revised circle achieved a new solidarity among the remaining practitioners, but met with an uneven response from clients, who often wanted the original promise of the healing circle–a diversity of healing approaches–without the burden of deciphering their illnesses’ meaning.