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Medical Pluralism

  1. Helle Johannessen

Published Online: 21 FEB 2014

DOI: 10.1002/9781118410868.wbehibs154

The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior, and Society

The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior, and Society

How to Cite

Johannessen, H. 2014. Medical Pluralism. The Wiley Blackwell Encyclopedia of Health, Illness, Behavior, and Society. 1394–1397.

Author Information

  1. University of Southern, Denmark

Publication History

  1. Published Online: 21 FEB 2014

Abstract

In all societies a variety of therapeutic health care options coexist, and in medical anthropology the concept of “medical plurality” refers to this coexistence. Available therapies differ from one locality to another: one can find any mixture of medical products, as well as various physical, psychological, and spiritual forms of therapy. Previously many of the available therapies were locally based, but today we witness a spread of techniques and products across the globe, and the emerging pluralism is not organized in stable medical systems. Instead, a number of networks on different levels and across levels can be found; these networks emerge in shared concepts and forms of praxis among lay people and in clinical and educational institutions but are never inhabited by stable and loyal populations of patients and healers. The medical pluralism of today can be conceptualized as open networks based on elective affinity that come into existence through praxis. When moving between different networks, sick persons, families, and health care providers juggle with issues of identity and the social as they seek solutions that may provide healing for the suffering body and at the same time provide for meaningful relations of the self.

Keywords:

  • body image;
  • globalization;
  • health;
  • health care;
  • medical anthropology