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Medical Anthropology

A Biocultural Approach

Second Edition

Andrea S. Wiley and John S. Allen

Publication Date - June 2012

ISBN: 9780199797080

464 pages
6-1/8 x 9-1/4 inches

In Stock

Retail Price to Students: $54.95

A biocultural approach to medical anthropology, examining health issues within evolutionary, historical, sociocultural, and political-economic contexts


An ideal core text for introductory courses, Medical Anthropology: A Biocultural Approach, Second Edition, offers an accessible and contemporary overview of this rapidly expanding field. For each health issue examined in the text, the authors first present basic biological information on specific conditions and then expand their analysis to include evolutionary, historical, and cross-cultural perspectives on how these issues are understood. Medical Anthropology considers how a biocultural approach can be applied to more effective prevention and treatment efforts and underscores medical anthropology's potential to improve health around the world.

New to this Edition

  • Added examples of "anthropologists in action." Each chapter features an applied anthropologist working on an issue related to the chapter's topic.
  • Streamlined overview of infectious diseases, with less historical and biological detail.
  • Further consideration of the ways in which climate change is already, or is likely to influence human health.
  • All research has been updated to include the latest findings and new approaches.

Previous Publication Date(s)

August 2008


"Medical Anthropology makes it evident that the human illness experience necessitates an understanding from a non-biological perspective, and reading it will change the way many students view human health and illness.>"--Helen Cho, Davidson College

"Medical Anthropology is very accessible and relevant and stands as an effective tool for demonstrating the interaction of culture, health, and the environment."--Jonathan Maupin, Vanderbilt University

Table of Contents

    A Biocultural Approach to Medical Anthropology
    What Is Distinctive about This Text
    What's new in this edition
    Outline of the Book

    Chapter 1: Introduction
    What is Anthropology?
    The Development of Medical Anthropology
    What is Medical Anthropology?
    The Culture Concept
    A Biocultural Perspective
    Looking Ahead

    Chapter 2: Anthropological Perspectives on Health and Disease
    Definitions of Health
    Anthropologist in Action: Arthur Kleinman
    Health, Ethics, and Cultural Relativism
    The Locus of Health: The Body and Society
    Biological/Medical Normalcy
    Evolutionary Perspectives on Health
    Behavioral Adaptability
    Cultural Approaches in Medical Anthropology
    Political Economy of Health
    Ethnomedical Systems
    Interpretive Approaches to Illness and Suffering
    Applied Medical Anthropology

    Chapter 3: Healers and Healing
    Culture and Healing Systems
    Living Longer with Cystic Fibrosis
    Recruitment: How Healers Become Healers
    Alternative and Complementary Medicines
    Navajo Medicine
    When Biomedicine Is Alternative Medicine
    Alternative Biomedicines
    Death as a Biocultural Concept
    Harnessing the Power of the Placebo
    Placebo and Nocebo

    Chapter 4: Diet and Nutrition in Health and Disease
    Fundamentals of Nutrition
    How are Dietary Reference Intakes (DRIs) constructed?
    Digestive Physiology
    An Evolutionary Approach to Nutrition
    Scurvy in Evolutionary Perspective
    Ascertaining Diet and Nutritional Status from Ancient Bones
    C3 versus C4 in Bones
    Anthropologist in Action: Ellen Messer
    Nutrition and Chronic Diseases
    Sugar and High-Fructose Corn Syrup in Biocultural Perspective
    Lactose Intolerance
    Celiac Disease

    Chapter 5: Growth and Development
    Life History Theory
    Gestation: The First 40 Weeks of Growth and Development
    Fetal Alcohol Syndrome
    Birth Weight in the Mountains
    Small but Healthy?
    Anthropologist in Action: Gretel Pelto
    Is Bigger Better?
    Does Milk Make Children Grow?
    Puberty and the Onset of Adolescence
    Teenage Pregnancy in the United States
    Sex, Gender, Growth, and Health
    Environmental Toxins and Growth

    Chapter 6: Reproductive Health in Biocultural Context
    Medicalization of Women's Health and Reproductive Health
    Oral Contraceptives and Biological Normalcy
    Premenstrual Syndrome
    Determinants of Fertility
    Falling Sperm Counts: Environmental Causes of Male Reproductive Health Problems
    The Medicalization of Male Sexual Dysfunction
    Female Genital Cutting
    Anthropologist in Action: Ellen Gruenbaum
    Humoral Medicine: Concepts of Hot and Cold
    Cosleeping and Sudden Infant Death Syndrome
    Reproductive Events and Breast Cancer Risk

    Chapter 7: Aging
    The Aging Body
    Physiological Theories of Aging
    Somatic Mutations
    Free Radicals
    Wear and Degeneration
    Evolutionary Theories of Aging
    The Aging Brain
    Alzheimer Disease, Genes, and Evolution
    Extending Life? Caloric Restriction and an Okinawa Case Study
    Health, Illness, and the Cultural Construction of Aging

    Chapter 8: Infectious Diseases: Pathogens, Hosts, and Evolutionary Interplay
    Koch's Postulates
    Taxonomy of Infectious Disease
    How Pathogens Spread
    Human Defenses against Pathogens
    To Treat or Not to Treat
    The Immune Response: A Brief Overview
    Vaccination: How Does It Work?
    The Language of Immunity
    Human-Pathogen Co-Evolution
    Malaria: a post-agricultural disease
    Evolutionary changes in pathogens
    Antibiotic Resistance
    Variation in Pathogen Virulence
    Allergies and Asthma: Relationship to Infectious Disease Exposure?
    The Hygiene Hypothesis
    The Helminth Hypothesis
    Anthropologist in Action: David Van Sickle and managing asthma

    Chapter 9: Globalization, Poverty, and Infectious Disease
    Emergent and Resurgent Diseases
    Social Transformations, Colonialism, and Globalizing Infections
    Colonization in the Tropics
    Colonialism's Health Legacy
    Climate Change and Emerging/Resurging Diseases
    Genetic Adaptation to Cholera
    Dams and Infectious Disease
    Tuberculosis: Emerging and Resurging
    HIV/AIDS: A New Disease
    Bushmeat Hunting and the Emergence of Human Diseases
    Anthropologist in Action: Paul Farmer and HIV in Haiti

    Chapter 10: Stress, Social Inequality, and Race and Ethnicity: Implications for Health Disparities
    Biology of the Stress Response
    The Nervous System Stress Response
    The Hormonal Stress Response
    Why Is Stress Different for Humans?
    Stress and Biological Normalcy
    Stress and Health
    Cardiovascular Disease
    Immune Function
    Medical Anthropologist in Action: Nancy Schoenberg
    Child Growth
    Inequality, Stress, and Health
    Relative Status
    Social Cohesion
    Social Support
    Race and Ethnicity and Health in the United States
    BiDil and "Racial Medicine" in the United States

    Chapter 11: Mental Health and Illness
    The Medical Model in Biocultural Context
    Culture-Bound Syndromes
    A French Culture-Bound Syndrome
    Eating Disorders
    ADHD and Culture
    Mood Disorders
    Bipolar Disorder and Creativity
    The Evolution of Substance Use and Abuse
    An Ethnography of Futility

    Epilogue: The Relevance of Medical Anthropology
    What Can I Do Next if I Am Interested in Medical Anthropology?
    Graduate Programs in Anthropology
    Public Health Programs
    Medical Schools and Clinical Health Professions
    Work in Governmental and Nongovernmental Health Agencies


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