Causes of Disease

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Overview
Exercise ID: 3.2
Class size: Any
Level(s): I
Source: Produced by HRAF


Learning Objectives

Does the exercise compare 2 or more cultures? Yes
Subject selection: Single subject specified by teacher
Subjects/OCMS, if applicable: Disease
Region selection: pre-selected
Region, if applicable: Various
Culture selection: Student chooses from pre-selected list
Cultures/OWCs, if applicable:
Samples:

Classroom Guide

Instructions for navigating eHRAF included? Yes
Assignments for students to complete in groups? No
Assignments for students to complete on their own? Yes
Instructions for Microfiche version? No
 

Christiane Cunnar, Human Relations Area Files

Cultural views on medicine vary widely; sometimes they even clash.  Whereas an American doctor might view a common cold caused by germs, a faith healer in Asia or Africa might attribute the cold to evil winds or spirits. Cultures from around the world have different views on causes for diseases.  Some cultures may view the “common cold” as being caused by germs, other cultures may see the common cold as being caused by evil winds or evil spirits. In places where there is great cultural diversity, it is important for medical staff to understand and be aware of cultural differences in order to treat patients effectively.

Attention Instructors: The following exercises link to varying length of full-text (chapters and sub-chapters) in the eHRAF World Cultures (http://ehrafworldcultures.yale.edu) database. If your institution currently doesn’t have access to the database the hyperlinks will not work and you will see a blank white screen (when hyperlinking). Contact HRAF for a password and then log onto the database before performing the exercises. Please also note that once you hyperlink to the text in the database you leave this web site. To return to this web site, use the brower’s back button, mark this web site as bookmark, or open this web site as separate screen. For a password or exercise answer key (only for instructors) contact HRAF at hraf@yale.edu, 1-800-520-HRAF or 203-764-9401

A. The Hopi of the southwestern United States

Read Jerrold E. Levy’s chapter titled “Soul Loss” in “Hopi Shamanism: A Reappraisal” and answer the following questions:

1. According to Levy, Hopi traditionally did not believe in soul loss as causing illness. What did the Hopis see as possible illness causes?

a. Disbelief, bad thoughts, anxiety
b. Bad luck
c. Someone putting a spell on somebody else
d. Emotional imbalance
e. A and d

2. According to Hopi belief, witches caused which illness or condition?

a. Insanity
b. Blindness
c. Fright illness
d. Malaria
e. Chicken pox

3. Hopis believed that contact with improperly killed game animals was the most common cause of seizures among children.

a. True
b. False

4. Tewas believed that “evil winds,” sent by a witch, caused epilepsy.

a. True
b. False

B. The North American Hmong

Read Lisa L. Capps’ chapter titled “Fright Illness and the Concept of Soul Loss” in “Change and Continuity in the Medical Culture of the Hmong in Kansas City” and answer the following questions:

1. What is the Hmong term for fright illness?

a. cleb
b. ceeb
c. caab
d. ceep
e. clep

2. According to Capps, what do the Hmong of Kansas City commonly state as causing fright illness?

a. Cold water
b. A startling noise
c. A car accident
d. Being chased by a dog
e. All of the above
f. None of the above

3. What do the Hmong in Kansas City use to treat fright illness?

a. Shaman
b. Ancestor calling
c. Prayers and massage
d. Sacrifice a chicken
e. Special diet

4. According to Capps, fright illness is viewed most common among Hmong children because of the traditional concept that:

a. Children often provoke the spirits
b. Children are punished by the spirits
c. Children’s souls are very vulnerable to intrusions
d. Children’s souls are less firmly attached to their bodies

5. The Hmong of Kansas City describe fright illness as a physiological problem primarily affecting the flow of blood by:

a. slowing the blood flow
b. slowing the pulse rate
c. increase the blood flow
d. increase the pulse rate
e. A and B
f. C and D

6. Although the concept of soul loss does not assume a central role in Protestant Hmong worldview, fright illness remains a valid diagnosis in the Hmong community.

a. True
b. False

C. The Haitian Americans

Read Michel Laguerre’s chapter titled “Concepts of Disease and Illness” in “American Odyssey: Haitians in New York City” and answer the following questions.

1. For Haitian Americans “natural” illnesses are known as:
a. Maladi péi
b. Natuerliche Krankheiten
c. Ceeb
d. Country Diseases
e. A and D
f. B and C

2. According to traditional Haitian American belief, what is seen as “natural” cause of illness?

a. Type and movement of “gas” in the human body
b. Location and movement of “gas” in the human body
c. Type and movement of the blood
d. A and C
e. B and C

3. What does each voodooist family have to protect itself from the malevolent spirit?

a. Spirit protector
b. Protégé
c. Voodoo doll
d. A and B
e. None of the above

4. Which is true in the relationship between spirits and protégés?

a. The spirits depend on the protégés for protection
b. The protégés depend on the spirits for protection
c. The protégés are always subordinate to the spirits
d. The spirits are always subordinate to the protégés
e. B and C

5. Voodoo is seen as what type of system(s)?

a. Socioeconomic and medical
b. Religious and political
c. Medical and religious
d. Religious and Social
e. None of the above

6. In Haitian American belief “san fret” (cold blood) is result of the following:

a. Cholera
b. Death
c. Malaria
d. Fever
e. Influenza

7. Haitian Americans believe that blood is “hot” when a person is:

a. Nervous
b. Sleeping
c. Exercising
d. All of the above
e. None of the above

8. According to Haitians, when the blood is weak, one is advised to:

a. Eat red foods such as red meat and sugar beet.
b. Drink red beverages, such as syrup made of cows’ legs and sugar.
c. Rest and take vitamins.
d. A and B
e. All of the above

9. Many Haitian Americans believe that “gas” provokes pain and anemia. Gas can occur in the head, where it enters through the:

a. Nose
b. Mouth
c. Ears
d. Eyes
e. All of the above

Answer c. pg. 120. GAS (Gaz) Many Haitians believe that “gas” may provoke pain and anemia. Gas can occur in the head, where it enters through the ears.

10. According to Haitian Americans belief what medicinal remedy can be used to cure stomach pain and headaches:

a. Massage and prayer
b. A tea made of garlic, cloves and mint
c. Plantain and corn
d. B and C
e. All of the above

11. After childbirth, women are particularly susceptible to the entry of gas, and must tie a belt or piece of linen tightly about the waist to keep it out.

a. True
b. False

12. According to Haitian American belief, who might be susceptible to chofret (cold or pneumonia)?

a. A person who eats something “cold” after strenuous physical exercise
b. A woman who has just ironed her hair and then opens a refrigerator
c. All of the above
d. None of the above

13. Which food items do Haitian Americans categorize as “warm?”

a. Sugar cane, imported spam, kidney beans
b. Chicken, banana juice, conch
c. Rum, nutmeg, eggs
d. Pigeon peas, non-iced soft drinks, milled corn
e. Coconut candy, cabbage, eggplant

14. Who, according to Haitian American folk belief, is particularly susceptible to fright illness?

a. Pregnant women
b. Infants and small children
c. Elderly
d. Lactating women

15. What do American Haitians term as “oppression?”

a. Asthma
b. Influenza
c. Cough
d. Constipation

D. The Ojibwa of the Plains Region in the United States and Canada

Read Christopher Vecsey’s chapter titled “Causes of Disease” in “Traditional Ojibwa Religion and its Historical Changes” and answer the following questions.

1. What is the Ojibwa’s view on the mythological origin of disease?

a. Angering an ancestor spirit
b. Misbalanced hunting relationship between humans and animals
c. Misbalanced relationship between humans and spirits
d. Giving someone the “evil eye”

2. According to Ojibwas’ traditional beliefs, what are explanations for causes of diseases?

a. Intrusion of a foreign object into the body
b. Soul loss, manitos
c. Improper contact with sources of power
d. All of the above
e. None of the above

3. According to Ojibwa’s historic beliefs, witches used what kind of methods to induce diseases?

a. Sketch their victim’s image on the ground and place poison on the spot to be harmed
b. Scratch victims with poisons
c. Tie carved wooden images of their victims to a tree with a thread; if thread breaks then the victims die
d. All of the above
e. None of the above

4. Vecsey reports that some witches were particularly fearsome when posing as animals. Which animal is he referring to?

a. Wolf
b. Mountain Lion
c. Bear
d. Coyote
e. Snake

E. The Central Thai

Read Robert Textor’s chapter titled “Initiative-taking, Non-possive Ghosts that Cause Illness” in “Roster of the Gods: An Ethnography of the Supernatural in a Thai village ” and answer the following questions.

1. According to Textor, the Central Thai see the “Water Ghost” as being derived from a dead person who inhibits ponds, lakes, forests, and fields.

a. True
b. False

2. According to Textor, the Central Thai see the “Epidemic Ghost” as always being male.

a. True
b. False

3. What is or are explanation(s) of how the Water Ghost is generated from a body of water?

a. From a person’s drowning in a body of water
b. From the depositing of a corpse or ghost in a body of water
c. All of the above
d. None of the above

4. The Water Ghost may cause what kind of disease?

a. Malaria
b. Chicken pox
c. Stomach flu
d. Windigo

5. What is the protective measurement against Epidemic Ghosts?

a. Dependence on sacralized salt and sand
b. Dependence on sacralized pepper and salt
c. Dependence on sacralized salt and rocks
d. Dependence on sacralized salt

F. The Taiwan Hokkien

Read Emily Ahern’s section titled “Knowing the Cause of an Illness” in “Sacred and Secular Medicine in a Taiwan village: A Study of Cosmological Disorders” and answer the following questions.

1. According to Ahern, the Taiwan Hokkien refer to “Phu-pi ” as:

a. Trouble that arises from outside the body
b. Being hit or bumped by something
c. All of the above
d. None of the above

2. What method may a Chinese-style doctor use to diagnose an illness?

a. Stethoscope and blood pressure readings
b. Urine and blood tests
c. Studying the color of the complexion
d. All of the above
e. None of the above

3. According to Ahern, which (if any) of the following best describes a treatment, prescribed by a Western-style doctor?

a. Herbals and natural substances.
b. Antibiotics in form of orally-taken powders or injections
c. Special diet
d. All of the above
e. None of the above

4. According to the Taiwan Hokkien, which illness(es) is/are best cured by gods?

a. Illness that is caused by a spirit “hitting” a person
b. Illness that is caused by a spirit “cursing” a person
c. Illness that is caused by a spirit “manipulating” a person.
d. All of the above.

References Cited

Levy, Jerrold E.
1994 Hopi shamanism: A Reappraisal. Norman: University of Oklahoma Press. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Capps, Lisa L.
1994 Change and continuity in the Medical Culture of the Hmong of Kansas City. Washington, D.C.: Society for Medical Anthropology. pp. 161-177. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Laguerre, Michel S.
1984 American odyssey: Haitians in New York City. Ithica: Cornell University Press. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Vecsey, Christopher
1983 Traditional Ojibwa Religion and its Historical Changes. Philadelphia: American Philosophical Society. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Textor, Robert Bayard
1973 Roster of the Gods: An Ethnography of the Supernatural in a Thai village. New Haven: Human Relations Area Files. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.

Ahern, Emily M.
1975 Sacred and Secular Medicine in a Taiwan village: A Study of Cosmological Disorders. Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health, Education, and Welfare, National Institutes of Health. As seen in the eHRAF Collection of Ethnography on the Web, 4/15/02.