1st Edition

Diagnosis Narratives and the Healing Ritual in Western Medicine

By James Meza Copyright 2019
    272 Pages
    by Routledge

    272 Pages 11 B/W Illustrations
    by Routledge

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    The dominance of "illness narratives" in narrative healing studies has tended to mean that the focus centers around the healing of the individual. Meza proposes that this emphasis is misplaced and the true focus of cultural healing should lie in managing the disruption of disease and death (cultural or biological) to the individual’s relationship with society. By explicating narrative theory through the lens of cognitive anthropology, Meza reframes the epistemology of narrative and healing, moving it from relativism to a philosophical perspective of pragmatic realism. Using a novel combination of narrative theory and cognitive anthropology to represent the ethnographic data, Meza’s ethnography is a valuable contribution in a field where ethnographic records related to medical clinical encounters are scarce. The book will be of interest to scholars of medical anthropology and those interested in narrative history and narrative medicine.

    Part I: Methods
    1. Fieldwork methods
    2. The theoretical frame

    Part II: The diagnosis narratives
    3. Entrance into the field
    4. Who is narrating and what story are they telling?
    5. Spatial cognitions
    6. The doctor tells the diagnostic story to the patient
    7. Joint attention to the diagnostic narrative
    8. Spatial therapy

    Part III: Ritual healing in Western medicine
    9. Ritual theory
    10. Disease as an existential threat
    11. Qualifications of a leech
    12. Healing relationships
    13. When the healing ritual fails

    Part IV: The body politic
    14. The business of medicine
    15. Overdiagnosis and overtreatment

    Part V: Narrative studies on healing reconsidered

    16. Narrative healing reconsidered
    17. Theoretical synthesis
    18. Reflections of a healer

    Appendix A: Individual patient narratives
    Appendix B: Doctors talk about work
    Appendix C: Codebook and themes


    James P. Meza is Assistant Professor in the Department of Family Medicine and Public Health Science at Wayne State University School of Medicine, USA. He holds a PhD in Cultural Anthropology and is a practising doctor of medicine (MD).