MEDANTH THM- 1 - Aynsley Merk Medical Anthropology 227...

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Aynsley Merk Medical Anthropology 227: Take-Home Midterm- Question 1 The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down is a biographical account of an American- Hmong child, Lia Lee, who through a series of symptoms becomes the rope in a cultural Tug-o- war. Since Lia is so young her opinions of her condition are not presented, instead the novel shows primarily the interpretations of the most polar characters, her doctors and her parents (the other characters taking intermediate roles). Lia’s parents, Foua and Nao Kao, represent the Hmong point of view. The Hmong have an ethnomedical system which explains sickness as the result of supernatural forces directed at a person, specifically through soul loss. Malicious spirits, called ‘ dabs, ’ have the ability to capture one’s soul if one is not careful. Similarly, it is believed that souls may wander from a person “… through anger, grief, fear, curiosity, or wanderlust.” (Fadiman, 10), causing sickness. In order to recover, one must retrieve their soul. Peter Brown identifies this rationale as a ‘personalistic belief system’ (Brown, 14), a category of Explanatory Models, EM (A personal interpretation of the causation, treatment and outcome of sickness by which a person gives meaning to his/her condition (Brown, 14)).
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