Nanuu Maria Gets Hit by Lightning: People and

Nanuu Maria Gets Hit by
Lightning: People and Their Selves
Coessential animal…
 The Mixtec believe that an animal and human born
at the same time will share life experience, are often
said to have a single soul, and will, at times, share a
 Nanuu Maria’s kiti nuvi was the coatimundi, at some
time in her life determined by divination. The
coatimundi had been hit by lightning.
 Nuyoo personhood involves a “coessential animal”
born at the same moment
- the “coessential animal” could be any species
- it lives in the forest while you live in society
- things that happen to it affect you, and things that happen to
you, affect it
- you can understand yourself (or others) in terms of your
coessential animal
- it explains your talents, interests, luck, dreams, status and
role in life, etc.
 The person in society is based on the culture’s notion
of the constitution of the self. What does the self
consist of? Is it two parts, a conscious and an
unconscious self? Is it a human and an animal?
Every culture has some conception of how the self is
The Dou Donggo for example; personhood is determined in
part by social relations…
- identity is made up of membership in a criss-crossing set of
social groups
 - kin groups, residential groups, etc.
- Elder to La Ninde (the guy who supposedly assaulted Ina
Mone in the case earlier)
- “You think you belong to yourself, but you don’t! You are owned
by your parents, you are owned by your kinsfolk, you are owned by
your village, you are owned by God. You can’t just do as you
- Dou Donggo persons are not autonomous individuals, but
rather persons that are nodes in networks of relationships…
In North America now our concept of personhood is more
‘egocentric.’ We generally think that persons are autonomous
individuals responsible for themselves alone. (And that is how
many people act…as if they have no family!)
Culturally constructed, culture-bound
 By stating that something is culturally constructed
we mean that ideas about the world and the people
in it that seem quite obvious and ordinary to the
members of a culture are in fact the products of a
specific historical tradition and differ from one
culture to another (Monaghan and Just)
The culture-bound syndrome…a combination of psychiatric
and somatic symptoms that are considered to be a
recognizable disease only within a specific society or culture.
 A culture-specific syndrome is characterized by:
 categorization as a disease in the culture (i.e., not a voluntary
behaviour or false claim);
 widespread familiarity in the culture;
 complete lack of familiarity of the condition to people in other
 no objectively demonstrable biochemical or tissue
abnormalities (symptoms);
 the condition is usually recognized and treated by the folk
medicine of the culture.
Medical Anthropology…
 Medical anthropology, as a subdiscipline of general
anthropology, is concerned with the study of human
disease and illness and folk medicine.
Medical anthropology makes a general distinction between
disease and illness.
Disease is an objectively measureable pathological condition of the
 Illness, by contrast, is a feeling of not being normal and healthy. It
may be the result of disease but generally refers to the individuals
perception of their health.
Perceptions of illness are very much related to culture while disease
is usually not.
Naturalistic vs.Personalistic
 Much of the non-western world traditionally accepted a
personalistic explanation for illness. Today, it is mostly found
among people in small-scale societies and some subcultures of
larger nations. For them, illness is seen as being due to acts or
wishes of other people or supernatural beings and forces. There is
no room for accidents. Adherents of personalistic medical systems
believe that the causes and cures of illness are not to be found only
in the natural world. Curers usually must use supernatural means
to understand what is wrong with their patients and to return them
to health.
 Typical causes of illness in personalistic medical systems include:
 1. intrusion of foreign objects into the body by supernatural means
 2. spirit possession, loss, or damage
 3. bewitching
 Susto-found among some
 1. the sudden, unexpected barking
Hispanics in the United States
and Latin America. Literally
means fright or sudden fear in
Spanish. The fear is of losing
one's soul. Susto results from
incidents that have a
destabilizing effect on an
individual, causing the soul
(espiritu ) to leave the
body. Typical incidents that
can cause susto include:
of a dog
2. being thrown from a horse
3. tripping over an unnoticed object
4. sharing a hospital ward with a
patient who has died during the night
5. having a nighttime encounter with
a ghost who keeps your spirit from
finding its way back into your body
before you wake
6. being socially impinged upon by
society (e.g., being forced to do
something that you do not want to
7. being in a social situation that
causes you to have fear or anger
 …the person has an
overpowering belief
that his penis (or vulva
or nipples in females)
will retract and
 Psychosexual conflicts,
personality factors, and
cultural beliefs are
considered as being of
etiological significance
to koro. Sexual
promiscuity, guilt over
masturbation, and
Pibloqtok…Arctic hysteria
 Symptoms can include
intense hysteria
(screaming, uncontrolled
wild behavior), depression,
coprophagia (involves
poop!), insensitivity to
extreme cold (such as
running around in the
snow naked), echolalia
(senseless repetition of
overheard words) and
 possibly linked to vitamin A
toxicity (hypervitaminosis).
The native Inuit diet provides
rich sources of vitamin A and
is possibly the cause or a
causative factor. The
ingestion of organ meats,
particularly the livers of arctic
fish and mammals, where the
vitamin is stored in toxic
quantities, can be fatal. But
the condtion may not even
exist at all!
Other examples of culture-bound illness include…
 Amok; (Malaysia)as in running amok.
 Ghost sickness; native American, symptoms related
to close contact with a corpse
 Shen-k’uei; (China)illness attributed to excessive loss
of semen
 Zar; (North Africa, Middle East), spirit possession
leading to apathy and withdrawal