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The Body in Western and Non Western Cultures Essay

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How do people view the body? The answer varies from location, religion and culture. How western cultures view the body and how the body is treated (our body and others) are different from how non western cultures view and treat bodies. We can see the differences in the western and non western bodies in such works as Anne Fadiman’s account of a Hmong child in America and in articles like Genital Surgeries: Gendering Bodies. Along with the many differences between western and non western thoughts there are also several similarities. Especially when it comes to metaphors of the body.
The generalized western opinion of the body is that it is akin to an object. Like a car the body is composed of several diverse aspects. From a medical perception the body is healthy when all of the parts that compose it are running effortlessly and efficiently. If one part is not up to current standards then it has the ability to be dismantled and rearranged so that it works. From a social perspective the body is only healthy when it looks healthy. A healthy body for western society is slim or athletic, tan, tall and straight, clear of blemishes, clean and well maintained. The medical body and the social body are not always equivalent in western culture.
For example: Athletes appear to be very healthy by society standards. They are normally tall and athletic and give off the appearance of health. However, some athletes use anabolic steroids to help boost their performance. While they look healthy and act healthy these drugs have devastating effects inside of their body such as liver damage and formation of devastating cancers. In this example while the body was healthy by society standards it was not by medical standards.
In non western culture...


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...re are many ways to view the body than the one we were brought up to believe. However, we can also see from western metaphors and Hmong metaphors that a sick body is recognized by most people as being sick. We are also able to see with genital surgery that although society standards are different for every culture each culture uses surgery as a way to enhance the body and make it more pleasing to look at. Even with drastically different views of the medical body western and non western cultures still have very similar thoughts on how a body should look socially and go through similar rituals to obtain that body.



Works Cited

Fadiman, Anne. The Spirit Catches You And You Fall Down. 1st . New York: Farrar, Straus and Giroux, 1997. Print.
"Genital Surgeries: Gendering Bodies ." n. page. Print.
Lupton, Deborah. Medicine as Culture. 2nd. London: SAGE, 2003. Print.


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