Introducing Cultural Anthropology, 2nd Edition

A Christian Perspective


10. Medical Anthropology

Chapter Goals

After studying this chapter, you should be able to do the following:

  1. Describe major approaches to medical anthropology.
  2. Appreciate how medical anthropology is applied in a variety of cultural contexts.
  3. Understand issues of power and inequality within medical systems.
  4. Describe theological implications of medical anthropology.

Chapter Outline


Key Concepts


Medical Anthropology in Ecological (Epidemiological) Perspective

Critical Medical Anthropology

Clinical Medical Anthropology

Christians, Health, and the Body


alternative medicine


clinical medical anthropology

critical medical anthropology

culture-bound syndrome (also called folk illness)


epidemiological or ecological medical anthropology




medical anthropology





Discussion Questions

  1. How do you define “health” or “well-being”? These conditions are experienced by individuals, but they also relate to social and cultural contexts. What conditions need to be in place for an individual to experience health or wellness?
  2. Jesus performed many acts of healing in his ministry, although he did not physically heal everyone with whom he came into contact. How do you believe Jesus would define “health”? What passages or quotations from Jesus would support your answer?
  3. What are some of the uses of the body as a metaphor, or references to parts of the body in metaphorical ways (e.g., “my heart longs after you”), in Scripture? How are those similar to or different from how you talk metaphorically about the body or aspects of the body in your culture?
  4. Think of something besides addiction or childbirth that is medicalized. What are the consequences (good or bad) of this process? How/why do you think it happened?