Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology

2004 Edition
| Editors: Carol R. Ember, Melvin Ember

Medical Pluralism

  • Hans A. Baer
Reference work entry
DOI: https://doi.org/10.1007/0-387-29905-X_12


Medical systems in all human societies, regardless of whether they are indigenous or state-based, consist of a dyadic core consisting of a healer and a patient. Healers range from generalists, such as the shaman in indigenous societies or the proverbial family physician in modern societies, to specialists, such as the herbalist, bonesetter, midwife, or medium in preindustrial societies or the urologist, internist, or psychiatrist in modern societies. In contrast to indigenous societies, which tend to exhibit a more-or-less coherent medical system, state or complex societies exhibit the conflation of an array of medical systems—a phenomenon generally referred to by medical anthropologists, as well as medical sociologists and medical geographers, as medical pluralism. The medical system of a society consists of the totality of medical subsystems that coexist in a cooperative or competitive relationship with one another. Although much of the initial work that anthropologists...


Medical System Indigenous Healer Complex Society Medical Anthropologist Allopathic Medicine 
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© Kluwer Academic/Plenum Publishers 2004

Authors and Affiliations

  • Hans A. Baer

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