EASA, 2006: EASA06: Europe and the world

Bristol, UK, 18/09/2006 – 21/09/2006

(W026)

Attributing meaning to health and illness: the interaction between the local and the global

Location Queens 1.15
Date and Start Time 20 Sep, 2006 at 11:30

Convenor

Imre Lázár (Semmelweis University) email
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Short Abstract

The workshop investigates how particular understandings of health and illness are shaped by events, ideas and issues beyond the local.

Long Abstract

Today's increased and rapid movement of people, items and ideas encourages processes of attributing meaning to local events by social groups through reference to global ideas and international events. How health and illness are understood locally also depends considerably on what originates from or happens beyond the local. This workshop investigates how events, ideas and issues beyond the local shape popular understandings of health and illness in local social settings. We invite papers that discuss methodological and theoretical issues pertinent to the study of such processes, and describe and analyse particular examples. The study of how the local and the global coexist, merge, conflict and evolve, and what methodological and theoretical consequences can be drawn from such processes, deserves special attention. Our interest implies centre and periphery relationships from different angles, problems of migration, uprootedness, cultural bereavement and new identities in the context of multiculturalism, etc. We pay attention to such diverse issues as politics, economy, religion, human rights, and so on. Following the lead of this year's theme we are particularly interested in the influence of European issues on how social groups outside Europe understand health and illness. It is crucial to investigate also how these issues are spread, for instance through political, economic or other agents, mass media, migration, and so on. It is worthwhile also to focus on reverse processes, namely how perceptions, which were shaped through the interaction of the local with the global outside Europe, are then returning to Europe and influencing European perceptions of health and illness. This is particularly relevant for alternative forms of healing which can be observed all over Europe.

Papers

The local and the global in perceptions of health care and illness in Cyprus

Author: Costas Constantinou (University of Nicosia Medical School)  email
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Long Abstract

Co-author: Violetta Christophidou Anastasiadou, Cyprus Institute of Neurology and Genetics

My paper argues that Greek-Cypriots perceive health care and illness within a comparative framework, which helps them to make sense of scenarios of uncertainty. I discuss the findings from a study that used various types of interviews within the context of participant observation to investigate attitudes and understandings of genetic testing and organ transplantation in Cyprus. It became apparent that peoples' experiences determine their understandings of these issues and health care in general. Those who never underwent any serious genetic or organ transplantation considered health care in Western Europe as better than in Cyprus. In contrast, those who underwent such medical procedures or knew on who had undergone them tend to exhibit higher levels of trust into the local health care system.

Immigrant Latin American Women on the Verge of an Ataque de Nervios

Author: Serena Brigidi (E.U. Enfermería Gimbernat (UAB))  email
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Long Abstract

Ataques de nervios is an illness expression used by people from Latin America in general and by Caribbean people in particular for a culture-bound syndrome. It is frequently used to describe dramatic physical reactions including shaking, palpitation, and compulsive movements during funerals, when death strikes, or when accidents happen. The symptoms suggest a connection between panic disorder and agoraphobia, what makes it difficult to interpret the symptoms especially during medical emergencies that call for a quick diagnosis. The aim of my paper is to clearly distinguish ataques de nervios from other panic disorders by describing its nosology and eziology in reference to the American Psychiatric Literature and by drawing on the author's work-experience at mental health centres for immigrants in Barcelona and in Genoa. The paper is based on a study that was developed together with Latin women and focused on the epidemiological characteristics of this illness.

Global politics and the attribution of meaning to diseases: Cold War rhetoric and Zimbabwean AIDS conspiracy theories

Author: Alexander Rödlach (Creighton University)  email
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Long Abstract

HIV/AIDS entered the public consciousness when the Cold War had entered its last stage. Questions regarding the unknown origin of the epidemic were immediately drawn into the conflict between the Eastern and the Western Blocks. Particularly the Soviet Union disseminated through their propaganda machine messages, claiming that AIDS is the purposeful outcome of US-American research in biological warfare. This claim became widely known throughout the Eastern Block fostering the development of grassroots conspiracy theories about HIV/AIDS. These theories gained prominence even beyond the borders of the former Eastern Block. In my paper I describe the origin of these AIDS conspiracy theories and their path into Zimbabwe, and identify historic, sociological, and cultural factors contributing to their local dissemination.

Identities in crisis and suicide in Quebec

Author: Eliseu Carbonell (University of Girona)  email
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Long Abstract

The suicide rates in the Canadian province of Quebec are currently among the highest rates globally. However, suicide rates are neither distributed equally in all areas of the province nor in all social groups within the general population. A startling fact is that the suicide rate among male French Canadians is the highest in the province. It is generally argued that this is related to a crisis of male identity resulting from the rapid and stressful changes in the French Canadian society from 1970 onwards. The main changes are the following: secularization of education and health care, decline of industrial economic activities, and profound changes in gender roles. The aim of my paper is (1) to view suicide as a new plague in post-industrial societies which the Quebecois government intends to limit through a network of prevention centres, (2) to critically analyze the widely held argument that the high suicide rates are a result of the collapse of male identity due to rapid social changes, and (3) to look at social change as a solution rather than a cause of distress.

Global medical 'initiations' versus local medical 'exitiations' in Hungary

Author: Zoltán Zsinkó-Szabó (Institute of Behavioural Sciences)  email
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Long Abstract

During their professional training medical students undergo several enculturation processes into the world of medicine that can be termed "initiation rites". My paper, based on anthropology’s longstanding tradition in analyzing the functions of initiation rites, identifies such rites of transition for medical students and investigates and analyzes their key elements. During such initiation rites medical students undergo experiences that transform - many times unnoticed - their continuously gathered medical knowledge. My research unveiled a startling counter-phenomenon, which I call in the lack of a better expression "exitiation". My paper studies this phenomenon in the medical career that is the exact opposite of a normal "initiation", in that it results in medical students stopping professional training as medical doctors. I further present findings pertaining to the factors encouraging that phenomenon.

Possession and stigmata in Hungary: where medicine and media meet

Author: Imre Lázár (Semmelweis University)  email
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Long Abstract

My paper presents and analyzes cases of stigmata, possession, and ritual healing among Hungarian school girls within a millennial cultic milieu. I use a cultural phenomenological approach to analyze forms of dermal "stigmata", thought to be caused by black magic or possession induced by necromancy. In other words, occult practices are viewed as the cause of illness. Explanatory models used by the victim and her school mates reflect strong media influence of diverse genres. The practice of ritual self-healing, and seeking healers with unconventional and esoteric healing expertise indicate an avoidance of mainstream biomedical care. Biomedical solutions are postponed and taken only at a later stage. Explanatory models and treatment of the presented phenomena offered by biological psychiatry and the bio-psycho-social-spiritual approach are compared and discussed in the global and local context.