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November 1, 1985

Physicians of Western Medicine: Anthropological Approaches to Theory and Practice

Author Affiliations

Billings, Mont

JAMA. 1985;254(17):2478. doi:10.1001/jama.1985.03360170118047

This article is only available in the PDF format. Download the PDF to view the article, as well as its associated figures and tables.


Here is a handsome, heavy, wellbuilt book, in small print, bulging with citations and bibliographies, and almost unreadable. The 12 chapters by 13 authors are curiously similar in style in that the data, often thin enough at first, are reworked into a stiff, tenacious substance suitable for masonry repair. Is it now a requirement of graduate schools to begin with obscure and portentous language and to restate the issues first as proposal, then as theory, then as method, and finally as conclusion? A second and worse problem is the consistent reification of abstractions. "Western Biomedicine," as if everybody knows what that is, is regarded throughout as the unfairly Powerful Institution that will be disingenuously exposed in these articles. Similarly, the chapter headings regularly include a series of abstract words of uncertain relatedness and significance clustered around a colon. What can the reader expect from such obfuscations as "Reflexivity, Countertransference, and