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A Comparative Methodology



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M 18 C a I cross Cultural e Studies in Health and Illness Ant VOLUME in co ropology 7 NUMBER 1 WINTER 1983 Breast Feeding Determinants Low incom C lntries Popkin Bllsborrow Akin and Yamamoto and Community Morbidity Patterns Mexican American Folk Illnesses Trotter I Migration Modernization and Hypertension R Hackenberg B Hackenberg Magalit Cabral and Guzman Differential Diagnosis in Paleopathology and the Concept of Disease Evolution Klepinger REDGRAVE PUBLISHING COMPANY I Community Morbidity Patterns and Mexican American Folk Illnesses A Comparative Methodology ROBERT T TROTTER II The generalethnographic parametersof Mexican American folk healing have been well established as evidenced by the seminal and the recent works on the subject e g Clark 1959 Rubel 1960 1964 Madsen 1961 1964 Romano 1960 1964 1965 Kiev 1968 and Trotter and Chavira 1975 1980 1981 These works and the closely related ones presented in their bibliographies represent more than twenty years of nearly continuous ethnomedical researchin the Lower Rio Grande Valley of Texas However one critical factor has been neglected in these books and articles To date no one hasproduced an ethnographically sensitive technique to establishthe relative position of the folk illnesses described in these works within the context of all of the health problems faced by Mexican American communities Unfortunately this lack of balancemay have created a false impression about Mexican American ethnomedicine a subtle form of cultural stereotyping brought about by the interactions of the theoretical orientations of the researcherscombined with the emphasison ritual practices that is prevalent in anthropology This tendency produces descriptions of ethnomedical systems that suggesta general pervasiveness of culturally constructed folk illnessestreated by healing specialists with littIe or no attention directed to the treatment of symptoms or ailments within the home This situation can be demonstrated by a brief analysis of three



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