Religion and Culture in Dialogue: East and West Perspectives

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Thus, reflection on the relationships between health care services, different cultures, different religions, common knowledge and public policies need to be deepened. The relationship between social science, anthropology and health care. Anthropology's growing interest in the health disease phenomenon, is far from the hegemonic biologist and mechanistic model of medicine, approaching analysis from the sociological and cultural slant of the different therapies, their institutional configurations and diverse specialties. It is possible to highlight a plurality of thought and practices about cures in societies in which culture binds together elements of beliefs and customs from various groups.

There is a great variety of discursive interpretations of doctors and patients in whom disease can be studied in all its multiple, symbolic aspects, often through the narratives of the ill subjects themselves, as has been verified in several different studies Costa, ; Caprara e Landim, ; Nunes, ; Carvalho, ; Alves and Minayo, We know that the experience of illness if both individual and social; it belongs to the private domain and to public spaces "[ The meaning of being ill may be understood as feeling disagreeable sensations and symptoms tiredness, headache, pain, drowsiness, weakness, lack of appetite, fever which, identified by the doctor or by the patient, also represent the disease as a social and changeable construction, according to social group and cultural identity.

Different diseases may manifest themselves differently in people in the same group, and in a similar way in members of different groups.

The Intersection of Eastern and Western Cultures Part 2

Patients' "discourses" about health and disease relate personal, private experiences which are, however, "socialized". They clarify some aspects of the relationships between the individual and their group in specific biographic contexts, marked by the disease Herzlich, , p. In other words, disease is more than a biological configuration, it is also a socially and culturally constructed reality and the sufferer is, above all, a social being. Empirical and comparative anthropological studies have contributed to confronting the hegemonic biological model when this is presented to society as "the truth" or "the only truth".

ORGANIZATIONAL CHART

When it disregards the knowledge and experience of the patient with regard to the disease, as if this were not also a "truth"; as Minayo states, "[ The author adds:. The author calls our attention to the fact that the social and individual contexts of the process of healing has a similar mindset. Everyone depends on the symbolic efficacy created by the interactive relationship of trust between doctor, patient and social expectations surrounding the model. Which is to say, that there is no biomedical rationality independent of the cultural and historic context in which it is exercised.

ORGANIZATIONAL CHART

Minayo, , p. Anthropology of health organizes the symbols and categories of disease through sources producing meaning — biological, social, cultural or religious. They seek to follow paths which do not always converge, emphasizing the importance of understanding everyday life and the views of those who live in communities with different cultural and social standards, as well as studying how these are related to health and disease. According to Costa , it allows individuals to be understood from a holistic viewpoint, which covers not only their cultural context but their subjectivities on delving more deeply into a closer understanding of the reality of falling ill.

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This volume addresses the issue of the human encounter with the Mystery of God and the purpose of human life. It explores major themes from diverse cultural. Editorial Reviews. From the Back Cover. This volume addresses the issue of the human Religion and Culture in Dialogue: East and West Perspectives (Sophia Studies in Cross-cultural Philosophy of Traditions and Cultures Book 15) - Kindle .

Thus, anthropology of health takes into consideration different visions of the world of disease and the health care professional, collective attitudes to dealing with health problems, the disease from the point of view of the sufferer in light of society's norms and rules, as translated in moral or religious codes and, finally, the social ideal of what it is to be healthy Minayo, The relationship between health and religion in Brazil. In Brazil, social sciences in health care, including sociology, anthropology, political science and history have managed to develop and establish themselves as an area of research and teaching in a relatively short time — around three decades -, with many of the authors carrying research at the interface of sociology, anthropology and history.

Since the s, various authors have dedicated themselves to mapping and characterizing the field of studies dedicated to anthropology in health in Brazil. According to Alves and Minayo , even when it is opposed to the medical model, anthropology takes it as an object which reflects the multiplicity of therapeutic resources and "new" treatment forms, inside and outside official medicine, making it possible for knowledge and practice to appear which mix, and recreate and impose themselves on Brazilian society.

Thus, it is possible to recognize one of the most general characteristics of culture in Brazilian society is a belief in spirits, either of ancestors or other beings, and belief in their manifestation. ON this point, Velho states that:. The vast majority of Brazilian society is made up Roman Catholics. When they do not do this in person, they use friends and relatives as intermediaries. Illness, employment and love are some of the issues which may lead traditional Catholics and Protestants, Jews, Atheists, Agnostics etc. In Brazil, the majority of people believe in the action of the divine in preventing and curing illness.

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In , a mere 6. It is no coincidence that health problems are among the main reasons individuals seek religious help in Brazil. Although Brazilians talk about disease, both in etiological terms and in terms of available resources, they frequently question the distinction between material or physical disease and spiritual disease Ferreti, ; Fry and Howe, The logic of religious discourse, classifying diseases as material and spiritual, brings with it the supremacy of the spiritual Montero, Even so, this differentiation is tenuous and the majority of diseases can be classified in both categories, according to the diagnosis and the treatment received doctor, religious leader or the decision to seek help with a "body specialist" doctor, pharmacist etc.

Religious specialists are frequently called on to deal with the same symptoms as doctors, as different studies have shown Puttini, ; Redko, ; Rabelo, ; Laplantine and Rabeyron, ; Loyola, Studies show, for example, that individuals suffering from mental illness seek religious institutions as part of their self-help mechanisms Redko, In a study on the relationship between belonging to a religion as a protection factor in mental illness, Dalgalarrondo observed that religious groups can function as an intense social support network, directly influencing the community's tolerance of an individual suffering mentally, which may impact on the feeling of belonging and wellbeing on the part of the sufferer.

Studies of religion among the urban masses have indicated the central role of religious cults in therapeutic spaces. Rabelo argued that, in popular neighborhoods of Salvador, the number of cults which offer healing services "[ In interpretative anthropology, Geertz stated that "[ And defines religion as follows:.

Religion and Culture in Dialogue

A system of symbols which act to establish powerful, penetrating and lasting dispositions and motivations in man by formulating concepts of an overall order of existence and investing these concepts with such an aura of factuality that the dispositions and motivations appear uniquely realistic Geertz, , p. For the author, religion, through its symbolism, in which a truth is recognized, acts on the individual's spirit and state of health:.

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But which can share common definitions of reality and operate in the same, socially constructed area of significance Schutz, , as well as having common beliefs and values and interacting using the same networks of meaning in different contexts and experiences Geertz, , being able to vary the degree of adherence and commitment. Editor's note In , the world lost an outstanding scholar and champion of East-West dialogue when Professor Ninian Smart suddenly died. Often, when individuals turn to religion, we see that what they want is something difficult to define, be that an explanation, comfort, advice, at any rate, "something more" as an answer and to heal diseases, concerns and distress. Religious specialists are frequently called on to deal with the same symptoms as doctors, as different studies have shown Puttini, ; Redko, ; Rabelo, ; Laplantine and Rabeyron, ; Loyola, Together, the chapters provide a fresh approach and a synergy that ensures that each topic contributes something new to the dialogue between religion and culture. His recent publications include two edited volumes in ethics entitled Questions of Right and Wrong and Christian Character, Virtues and Bioethics , and a volume in religious studies entitled Dialogue: Confucianism, Buddhism, Daoism and Christianity

For an anthropologist, the importance of religion lies in its capacity to serve both the individual and the group, on the one had as a source of general concepts, albeit different, of the world, in itself and in relation to them — its model of attitude — and, on the other, of the entrenched "mental" dispositions, no less different — its model for attitude. From these cultural functions, social and psychological functions flow in turn Geertz, , p. He also comments from the point of view of religion, that suffering is not eliminated. This, the individual should understand it, tolerate it and bear it.

In other words, instead of being consoled, the individual should learn to deal with suffering. Thus, religion allows us to understand the resources humans possess for expressing emotions, understanding the world, positively influencing their situation in life and adjusting to human experience and actions. Religious discourse enables us to think about problems within an organized logic, providing criteria for classifying and representing an integration of disorganized events, making them more bearable "[ From this perspective, Laplantine and Rabeyron argue that there is no such thing as practice which is exclusively medical or magic-religious; and are in fact different and non-contradictory resources classified in two different levels of interpretation but inter-related: on the one hand, etiological-therapeutic processes and, on the other, questions of feeling and of significance.

Thus, despite the hegemony of the biomedical model, there is social space for the coexistence of different forms of therapy and cure, which the authors name parallel medicine 3. This occurs principally in complex, modern-contemporary society, in which individuals have different lifestyles and views of the world Velho, , are subject to a large and diverse number of stimuli and are at the intersection of different worlds Simmel, But which can share common definitions of reality and operate in the same, socially constructed area of significance Schutz, , as well as having common beliefs and values and interacting using the same networks of meaning in different contexts and experiences Geertz, , being able to vary the degree of adherence and commitment.

These individuals who can live in and travel between "worlds which touch but do not mix" Park, , p. They may play multiple social roles, dynamically associated with experiences and different levels of reality, in multiple contexts and different situations Velho, On discussing this criticism of complex, modern-contemporary society, Velho uses the concept of project, related to the concept of the field of possibilities. For the author, "[ Concepts such as lifestyle, world view, project and field of possibilities can be used in analyses of the therapeutic choices made by individuals seeking health.

The sufferer — above all the Brazilian -, in general, combines various forms of treatment and alternates continually between them, often simultaneously and, socio-culturally speaking, in a non-linear fashion Rabelo, Thus, the individual sufferer can try various possibilities of solving their problem, making their own therapeutic itinerary. The World Health Organization sought to recognize these different forms of practice in incorporating the concept of traditional medicine as an important strategy in improving a population's health, and defined it as.

This context accentuates the discussion and requires an in-depth look at the concept of integrality — one of the founding principles of the SUS — with emphasis on social, symbolic and cultural aspects as: "Results obtained by integrative practices show them to be effective, although these practices do not go beyond those of official medicine" Separavich e Canesqui, , p. When applied to the health-disease process and the quest for health in religious institutions, interpretative theory does not claim to answer all of our questions, but it allows us to speak, look, understand and interpret the responses given, in the form of an interactive dialogue between subjects.

Thus, culture provides the elements which make life events, such as health events, comprehensible. Therefore, the study of cultural interpretation is an effort to accept diversity between the different ways in which humans construct their lives in the process of living them Geertz, , With regards to health, we can affirm that therapeutic practices vary according to the individual's culture and it is based on that culture that they explain their suffering and illness, make treatment choices and evaluate their results, redefining their situation in life.

We understand that, in interpretation, the principle should be the universe of meanings of individual experience.

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Thus, for Geertz, analysis of everyday actions enables us to give meaning to the world and these actions which give significance constitute what he calls common sense. The author defines this as an achievable way to discourse with a cultural system, which implies a "[…] single order, able to be empirically discovered and conceptually formulated [ However, when studying culture, "common sense" should be taken into consideration, as thinking based on it constitutes a confirmation of the interpretations of experiences and part of real life, not abstract theories, thus constituting a colloquial knowledge which values reality.

Such experiences in the area of health and religion provide possibilities for interpreting disease and therapeutic practices Geertz, Ethnography is the search for structures of meanings, contextualized through thick description, according to Geertz So, he carried out ethnographic exploratory research in an Afro-Brazilian religious house of worship.

The field work took place using participative observation throughout and , with widely spaced visits and observations organized in the form of a field diary. Data was also produced using open interviews, informal conversations and personal material belonging to the attendees and managers of the center, as well as by audiovisual recording. In the state of Rio de Janeiro, only In addition to this, it has the highest percentage of attendees of Afro-Brazilian religions, with 1.

The city of Rio de Janeiro has the second most Afro-Brazilians in the country, accounting for 2. We appreciate that it is impossible for those unfamiliar with the cosmology and social organization of this cultural universe to understand issues of health and umbanda. Thinking about issues of disease and healing within this religion implies taking into consideration its cosmology, its rituals and the practices of its agents.

Therefore, some, albeit synthetic, references are needed on the basics of the of the umbanda religion. It is not the aim of this study to provide a detailed analysis of umbanda , and we consequently limit ourselves to a few references which will enable the inclusion of this Afro-Brazilian religion in the research to be understood. The criterion for choosing umbanda and this character was due to their recognized historical importance in forming the Brazilian identity and socio-cultural reality Birman, The religious context of umbanda and health in Rio de Janeiro.

I look after my people I deprive wickedness, help find work, help the innocent get out of jail, help them to be healthy, give advice …. My people count on me …. The higher my people raise my name, the more I grow spiritually. My people need to know who I am and what I do. During this study, we learned that individuals turn to umbanda in order solve various types of problems, health problems or otherwise.

A large number of individuals turn to umbanda cults because of illness, seeking relief from illnesses of the body and afflictions of the soul. Umbanda is similar to health promotion as it constitutes a support network, offering "healing" services, operating in various social classes, even where there is access to official health care systems, including the SUS.

During the session, the entity used the medium's body incorporation and thus carries out the consultation. The religious response to problems such as mental disorders, emotional difficulties, physical illnesses etc. Often, when individuals turn to religion, we see that what they want is something difficult to define, be that an explanation, comfort, advice, at any rate, "something more" as an answer and to heal diseases, concerns and distress.

It is here that the umbanda religion essentially differs from the hegemonic biomedical practice: whereas one promotes fragmentation and specialization, Luz, , the other tries to provide integrality, caring for the individuals as a whole, holistically. A fundamental effect of religion is in changing the meaning of disease: in the same was as it can lead to a change in the sufferer's world view.

This does not necessarily mean that symptoms disappear, but rather a positive change in the meaning the individual attributes to their illness, perhaps even resulting in lifestyle changes. In umbanda , the spirits address specific types of human requests. In general, exus deal with problems involving money and emotional discord; caboclos and pretos velhos prescribe herbal remedies and give advice. However, for one of our interviewees, exu also heals; it depends on your faith.

These entities are essential to understanding cosmology, diseases and healing processes in umbanda. In the group studied, the adepts classified diseases into five categories: diseases which we bring from other lives karmic , physical and mental diseases interpreted as consequences of non-developed or poorly developed channeling , diseases caused by others and diseases caused "by bad spirits" or by "obsession". It is interesting to note that the four categories could be seen as one bigger category of "spiritual diseases", in contrast to what we call physical diseases.

However, the "physical diseases" category is constituted by exclusion, based on the impossibility of classification in the other four categories and on cultural exchanges with the hegemonic medicine, caused simultaneously by physical and spiritual aspects.

In the words of one of the interviewees, karmic diseases need to be atoned for as the individual evolves spiritually and morally; it is a form of correcting errors from past lives. Diseases caused by channeling, according to the interviewee, manifest themselves in the form of fainting fits and headaches. They are interpreted as resistance to the passage of a spiritual entity which needs to develop. I was walking in the street and I took ill, I suddenly fell to the floor. Help Centre. My Wishlist Sign In Join. Be the first to write a review. Add to Wishlist. Ships in 15 business days. Link Either by signing into your account or linking your membership details before your order is placed.

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