The latest issue of Anthropology and Medicine includes the first of a series of articles called “The Canon,” each of which will feature “a reappraisal of a past text of what may be considered (unfashionably) canonical, classical or at least of continuing interest in medical anthropology or cultural psychiatry.” The first is a piece by Roland Littlewood on W.H.R. Rivers’ Medicine, Magic and Religion, often described as “a founding text for medical anthropology,” (Littlewood 2010).
The editors of Anthropology and Medicine invite reviewers to write about any of the books listed below — or to suggest others. Here is the list:
- Janice Boddy, Wombs and Alien Spirits: Women, Men, and the Zar Cult in Northern Sudan (1989)
- E. E. Evans-Pritchard, Witchcraft, Oracles and Magic among the Azande (1937)
- Paul Farmer, AIDS and Accusation: Haiti and the Geography of Blame (1992)
- Ari Kiev, Magic, Faith and Healing: Studies in Primitive Psychiatry Today (1964)
- Arthur Kleinman, Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture (1979)
- Donna Haraway, Simians, Cyborgs and Women: The Reinvention of Nature (1990)
- I.M. Lewis, Ecstatic Religion: A Study of Shamanism and Spirit Possession (1971)
- Godfrey Lienhardt, Divinity and Experience: The Religion of the Dinka (1961)
- Roland Littlewood, Pathology and Identity: The work of Mother Earth in Trinidad (1993)
- Margaret Lock, Encounters With Aging: Mythologies of Menopause in Japan and North America (1993)
- Bronislaw Malinowski, Magic, Science and Religion (1954)
- Margaret Mead, Coming of Age in Samoa (1928)
- Gananath Obeyesekere, Medusa’s Hair: An Essay on Personal Symbols and Religious Experience (1981)
- Rayna Rapp, Testing Women, Testing the Fetus: The Social Impact of Amniocentesis in America (1999)
- Elaine Scarry, The Body in Pain: the Making and Unmaking of the World (1985)
- Nancy Scheper-Hughes, Saints, Scholars and Schizophrenics: Mental Illness in Rural Ireland (1977)
- Marilyn Strathern, The Gender of the Gift (1988)
- Paul Stoller, Stranger in the Village of the Sick: A Memoir of Cancer, Sorcery, and Healing (2004)
- Allan Young, The Harmony of Illusions: Inventing Post-Traumatic Stress Disorder (1995)
Would others add different texts to this list — perhaps key articles as well? Do we even have need of a “canon” in medical anthropology or are discussions of texts which have continued relevance for our field important whether or not we label them “canonical”?
Carol Laderman Wives and Midwives: Childbirth & Nutrition in Rural Malaysia(1987)
Strathern's 'Gender of the Gift' is rather oddly placed here (though it is of course a brilliant text). Much more appropriate for the 'med anthro canon' would be 'Reproducing the Future,' or perhaps 'After Nature.'
On the psychiatry front Jeanne Favret-Saada's Deadly words: witchcraft in the bocage (1980). The section where she explores the medical records from the local psych facility and elucidates it with her field work on unwitching has always impressed me.
The notion of a "canon" seems somewhat antithetical to a lot of the important arguments and interventions represented by this list of texts and anthropological studies of science, technology and medicine more generally. The absence of Emily Martin's The Woman in the Body is also surprising.