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Cultural Analysis: !Kung San

Medicine
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Annotated Bibliography

Using the land and spirits to cure ailments

Because of their close relationship to the world they live in, the !Kung hold a remarkable knowledge of what foods are edible and which plants posses medicinal or toxic properties.9

Generally, the !Kung are quite healthy and tend to have longer life spans. The biggest health threats are skin disease and lung infections.1 While they do use some medicinal cures from the plants that they have available, the most used cure is ceremonial dance (as mentioned in the Religion section).

In recent years, the more "civilized" world has started taking notice of cultures like the !Kung and their knowledge of the medicinal values of various plant-life. In fact, pharmaceutical firms took notice that for thousands of years !Kung have cut off a stem of the Hoodia cactus to stave off hunger and thirst on long hunting trips. Taking a piece of cactus about the size of a cucumber, they would munch on it over a few days, eating together so as to bring back what they caught.0


Functionalist Perspective

Through religious rituals and the medicinal use of plants the !Kung have seen longer life spans and healthier lifestyles. With their knowledge of the local plant-life (as gained from thousands of years of experimentation from previous generations and passed down through stories), the !Kung are able to cure many normal ailments, even without use of "modern medicine". Religious ceremonies help to bond the !Kung with the spiritual world that permeates their culture and allows them to feel like they can influence their own fate.

Conflict Perspective

The major conflict regarding medicine with the !Kung is with the outside pharmaceutical firms. Exploited by these firms, the !Kung are losing out on a very profitable undertaking due to a lack of knowledge about what they are losing and what these firms are gaining. Without a knowledge of monetary systems, the !Kung are freely sharing their medicinal knowledge of the lands they have explored for thousands of years and the more civilized world is happy to use that knowledge for it's own benefit.

Symbolic Perspective

Symbolically, the religious aspects of medicine is more important than actual herbal remedies. These religious activities bring the !Kung a sense of togetherness with themselves, the world around them, and the spiritual world. They believe that to be healthy and happy, an equilibrium must be kept in all aspects of life.



This site was created for SOCIOLOGY 1 SEC DE1 (21594) FALL 2005.