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2. Health and Culture

Stella Quah

Subject Cultural Studies » Culture
Sociology » Sociology of Health, Aging, and Medicine

Key-Topics health , health care

DOI: 10.1111/b.9781405188685.2010.00003.x


Is culture relevant to the study of health and illness? Almost with one voice, sociologists and anthropologists agree that it is. Such a consensus is exceptional in these disciplines, both of which have produced the bulk of systematic research on health -related behavior by applying a wide variety of approaches and conceptual perspectives. Today, we know that culture is not just one of many factors associated with health but rather is the context within which health-related behavior unfolds. This chapter explains why culture is significant in health-related behavior, beginning with an overview of the classic definitions of culture and research trends. Next, we consider the link between culture and health behavior and, finally, focus on the link between culture and healing systems. The meaning of the term “culture” varies widely across disciplines and conceptual perspectives. To keep within the scope of this volume, the focus is on work in sociology and anthropology. We begin with an historical glance at the efforts made to define and understand “culture.” One enduring contribution comes from Emile Durkheim, a pioneer of the discipline of sociology. In his Rules of Sociological Method , first published in 1895, Durkheim proposed guidelines for the study of social phenomena as social facts . He argued that social facts are “representations” of society in the mind of the individual. ... log in or subscribe to read full text

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