“Toxin or Medicine? Explanatory Models of Radon in Montana Health Mines”
Barbra E. Erickson
- Environmental protection and public health agencies in the United States and elsewhere label radioactive radon gas a toxic environmental hazard and a major cause of lung cancer. Paradoxically, in Europe and Japan radon gas is also used as an analgesic and anti-inflammatory, as one choice in the spectrum of conventional medical care. Although it is possible to find radon therapy in the United States, it exists only as an unconventional practice in Montana “radon health mines.” In this article, I examine the use of radon therapy by Americans despite intensive public health education media campaigns. Using the notion of explanatory models as an analytical framework, I argue that American health mine clients adjust or replace “toxic models” of radon with new kinds of explanatory models that allow radon to be redefined as a healing substance. The manner of this adjustment varies according to peoples’ individual needs, their own preexisting cultural models and experiences, and their individual personalities; the source of authoritative knowledge accepted by each person is a strong influence. Through these altered explanatory models, mine clients are able to view their use of radon therapy as a rational course of action.
“Perinatal Sadness among Shuar Women: Support for an Evolutionary Theory of Psychic Pain”
Edward H. Hagen, H. Clark Barrett
- Psychiatry faces an internal contradiction in that it regards mild sadness and low mood as normal emotions, yet when these emotions are directed toward a new infant, it regards them as abnormal. We apply parental investment theory, a widely used framework from evolutionary biology, to maternal perinatal emotions, arguing that negative emotions directed toward a new infant could serve an important evolved function. If so, then under some definitions of psychiatric disorder, these emotions are not disorders. We investigate the applicability of parental investment theory to maternal postpartum emotions among Shuar mothers. Shuar mothers’ conceptions of perinatal sadness closely match predictions of parental investment theory.
“Herbalism, Home Gardens, and Hybridization: Wõthïhã Medicine and Cultural Change”
S. L. Heckler
- Using the example of the Wõthïhã of the Manapiare River Valley, Amazonas State, Venezuela, I challenge the image of the indigenous Amazonian as an expert in herbalism. I argue that the observed absence of medicinal plant use in early Wõthïhã ethnography, rather than reflecting researcher oversight, reflects the centrality of shamanism. According to Wõthïhã shamanic cosmology, herbal medicines, while useful to relieve symptoms and treat minor injuries, fail to address the underlying cause of illness. Using a combination of quantitative and qualitative methods, I find that as the role and influence of shamanism have dramatically decreased, the Wõthïhã have turned elsewhere for medical treatment. Biomedical remedies have shown to be effective, thereby encouraging an acceptance of symptom-specific treatments. Biomedicine’s patchy availability, however, has encouraged the Wõthïhã to look beyond biomedicine. Several folk healing traditions are being incorporated by the Wõthïhã, each with its own herbal tradition.
“Maternal Bodies, Breast-Feeding, and Consumer Desire in Urban China”
Suzanne Zhang Gottschang
- Urban Chinese women in the 1990s formulated their infant-feeding decisions in the context of a society undergoing radical transformation as the nation moved from a centrally planned socialist economy to a global, market-oriented one. Narratives of new mothers in Beijing in the 1990s provide insights into the multiple forces that shaped their infant-feeding practices. These personal histories also illustrate the limitations of multilateral breast-feeding programs that emphasize breast-feeding as a natural interaction between mother and infant. The cases I present here demonstrate instead that the material, bodily manifestations of breast-feeding require nursing mothers to continually renegotiate relations with husbands, coworkers, and family. Chinese women’s accounts also add insight to theoretical deliberations on gender and the body, for they demonstrate that cultural expectations and the demands of the lactating body must be considered to understand fully the process of women’s decisions in a social and not strictly reproductive context. On a larger scale, the data also illustrate how global intervention, in the form of the WHO–UNICEF-sponsored Baby-Friendly Hospital Initiative, promotes breast-feeding as a woman’s primary duty at the same time that market forces counter this message as women redefine their individual expectations and social relationships.
“Orthostatic Panic as a Key Vietnamese Reaction to Traumatic Events: The Case of September 11, 2001″
Devon E. Hinton, Lim Nguyen, Mark H. Pollack
- This article discusses a culturally specific response to traumatic events: orthostatic panic attacks among Vietnamese refugees. We compared the rate and severity of orthostatic panic as well as the rates and severity of associated flashbacks a month before and a month after September 11, 2001. After that date, the rate and severity of orthostatic panic greatly increased, as did the rate and severity of associated flashbacks. The central role of orthostatic panic as a response to traumatic events is illustrated through a patient’s vignette. An explanation of why September 11 so profoundly influenced this population is adduced, including an explanation of why it resulted in considerable worsening of orthostatic panic.
“Durbolota (Weakness), Chinta Rog (Worry Illness), and Poverty: Explanations of White Discharge among Married Adolescent Women in an Urban Slum in Dhaka, Bangladesh”
Sabina Faiz Rashid
- I carried out ethnographic fieldwork among 153 married adolescent girls, aged 15–19, in a Dhaka slum from December 2001 to January 2003, including 50 in-depth interviews and eight case studies. I also held discussions with family and community members. In this article, I focus on popular understandings of vaginal discharge being caused by durbolota (weakness) and chinta rog (worry illness), as mentioned by young women. Eighty-eight young women reported that they had experienced white discharge, blaming it on a number of factors such as stress and financial hardships, tensions in the household, marital instability, hunger anxiety, and reproductive burdens. For married adolescent women in the urban slum, white discharge has many levels of meaning linked to the broader social, political, and material inequalities in their everyday lives.