Showing 151 - 160 of 388 annotations tagged with the keyword "Cross-Cultural Issues"

Skin: A Natural History

Jablonski, Nina

Last Updated: Apr-05-2007

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

As an anthropologist with training in comparative biology, Jablonski is particularly interested in the natural history of humans: how did humans evolve to gain the varied appearances we see today? In particular, she investigates how our skin developed into a covering that is unique among animals in three ways: (1) it is naked--effectively hairless--and sweaty, (2) we come in a wide array of colors (not just the traditional four), and (3) we use our skin as a surface for decoration, a "social placard," which we cover or bare at will, and on which we put make-up, tattooes, scarifications, and piercings, all ways of expressing cultural and personal values.

Our ability to sweat allowed us to cast off the usual mammalian fur coat and to be active even in the heat of the day (when many creatures take shelter). Humans, therefore, could do more and be more as thinkers, builders, and social creatures.

As to our color variations, Jablonski argues that the main root of modern humans came out of East Africa; these people were black, because a lot of melanin in their skin was the best way to avoid too much ultraviolet radiation, although some is needed to create Vitamin D. As humans migrated to the north and the south, Darwinian selection favored lighter skin pigmentation in order to use the lower levels of sunlight.

Jablonski writes, "Dark skin or light skin, therefore, tells us about the nature of the past environments in which people lived, but skin color itself is useless as a marker of racial identity" (p. 95). And, noting an irony: "Naturally dark people in many parts of the world are increasingly seeking ways to lighten their skin, while the naturally light-skinned are trying to find new ways to darken theirs" (p. 159).

We often take our skin and all its functions for granted; our consciousness can change quickly, however, if we experience a skin disease, a sunburn, or a thermal burn (see Carter and Petro, Rising from the Flames: The Experience of the Severely Burned). Jablonski discusses a variety of illnesses, including burns, dermatitis, and skin cancers. Other topics include the importance of touch, how skin relates to emotion and sex, and experiments in artificial skin, useful for covering patients with severe burns.

Jablonski presents a dozen color plates, 44 figures, and maps to enliven her text.

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El Curandero

Campo, Rafael

Last Updated: Mar-22-2007
Annotated by:
Mathiasen, Helle

Primary Category: Literature / Poetry

Genre: Poem

Summary:

The Cuban-American physician-poet Rafael Campo tells a story in this poem. His speaker is both a curandero, or folk healer, and a modern-day American physician. Returning home after a trauma-filled day at the Emergency Ward, the speaker immerses himself in a soothing bath with "Twenty different herbs at first (dill, spices / From the Caribbean, aloe vera)." He weeps and prays to his patron saint and curandero St. Rafael, who has the same name as the poet himself. Rafael announces his arrival: "Rafael, / He says, I am your saint." The speaker tells his healer about two female patients he has seen that day, one, an abused wife, and the second a little girl killed on her tricycle. St. Rafael listens, touches the speaker, and carries him to bed. Sleep "takes the world away."

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The Calcutta Chromosome

Ghosh, Amitav

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In the not too distant future, the morose Egyptian, Antar, works in New York City, as a home-based computer employee, monitoring artifacts which he can study holographically through cyber space. He conjures up the I.D. card of one L. Murugan, who had supposedly disappeared in Calcutta back in 1995. Murugan is/was an expert on Nobel laureate Ronald Ross, discoverer of the role of the anopheles mosquito in the transmission of malaria.

Through flashbacks to the intense week of his disappearance and to episodes in the late nineteenth century, the virtual Murugan roams Calcutta trying desperately to understand and expose a subtext of counter science in Ross's laboratory. He is joined by Urmila, a journalist whose life is endangered by their collaboration.

Murugan theorizes that Ross was sloppy, intent on fame and fortune though a simplistic rendering of the parasite-host relationship; his discoveries were fed to him by others and he was blind to the spiritualistic ambitions of Mangala, his Indian laboratory technologist. Conceiving of the powerful significance of malaria prevention and control, Mangala held different views on the purpose and means of investigating the disease and, Murugan thinks, she anticipated the later discovery of another Nobel laureate, J. Wagner-Jauregg, in the use of malaria for the treatment of syphilis. The travels of Murugan and Urmila imply that these views are still there awaiting their own discovery.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Treatise

Summary:

The book opens with a thought "exercise": thirteen short essays, each in a different national voice and beginning "We, the people of a nation . . . " The honest, intelligent "speakers" love their countries and traditions; however, they try to express the ugly truths about their homelands as challenges for the future.

For example, American smugness over its know-how and wealth combines with American failure to recognize the resentment sparked elsewhere by these same attributes. Similarly, the mutual intolerance of Canada's linguistic and religious duality is portrayed as a grotesque irony. The U.S.S.R. has exchanged an old tyranny for a new; Japan must face the issue of controlling its population, if it is to control its impulse to aggression.

Chisholm then returns to his role as a socially committed psychiatrist who hopes to avert a war that could annihilate the human species. World aggression, he writes, is caused by the "anxiety" that emerges from intolerance typifying narrow parental guidance and even narrower systems of education and religion. People must learn to be comfortable with differences in population, race, language, and wealth. The message is simple: "anxiety" leads to "aggression." The book ends with a ideal curriculum for "world citizenship," surprisingly different from any currently in use.

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The Citadel

Cronin, A. J. (Archibald Joseph)

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

In 1921, the twenty-four year-old Scottish medical graduate, Andrew Manson, takes up an assistant’s position in a small Welsh mining town. He is idealistic, but he quickly learns that his training is inadequate and that his hemiplegic employer will never return to practice. Manson must do all the work for a pittance and bad food. He befriends another assistant, the surgeon Phillip Denny, whose fatal flaw is devotion to drink. Together they solve the town’s problem with typhoid by blowing up the sewer.

Manson’s escape comes in a new job in a larger town and marriage to the equally idealistic Christine. She encourages him to continue his studies and to conduct research on the relationship between dust inhalation and tuberculosis. The results include higher degrees and international recognition, but they also bring about the wrath of the town’s antivivisectionists. To add to the gloom, Christine looses a much wanted pregnancy and the ability to have children.

The Mansons leave Wales for London, where Manson hopes to extend his research within a government agency. Quickly disillusioned by bureaucracy, he is lured into society practice and slowly abandons his ideals in exchange for prestige and wealth. Christine is increasingly unhappy, but his response is annoyance with her and an affair with a married woman. When one of his new associates botches an elective operation on a trusting patient, he realizes the colleague is nothing more than a society abortionist and that he and his new friends are little better.

He decides to sell his practice and renews contact with Denny to establish a group consulting practice "on scientific principles" in a carefully chosen Midland town. He also helps the tubercular daughter of an old friend to an unorthodox (but effective) pneumothorax in a clinic run by Stillman, an American who does not have an MD. Just as he and Christine have rediscovered joy in each other and their future together, she is killed in a freak accident. Only days later in the depths of grief, he is brought before the General Medical Council on charges of unprofessional conduct laid by his former associates. He acquits himself brilliantly and leaves with his old friend Denny for work in the Midlands.

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The Forbidden Woman

Mokeddem, Malika

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Sultana, a doctor who escaped her illiterate nomadic background to study and work in France, returns to her native Algeria when she hears of the death of her former lover and fellow physician, Yacine. She is treated with hostility, but defiantly stays in Yacine’s place at the clinic. Vincent, a Frenchman who is the baffled recipient of a perfectly matched kidney from a young Algerian woman, travels to the desert to explore the culture of this unknown person whose death has brought him back to life.

Sultana and Vincent meet through their common friendship with the furtive, questioning children, Dalila and Alilou. Vincent and Salah, Yasmine’s best friend, both fall in love with Sultana, but she seems indifferent to them. The violence and suspicion of the town leaders causes her to regress into anorexia and mutism, during which she is tormented by the horrible memory of the loss of her parents. Her three male friends and the village women help her to recover a sense of self worth, but she must flee when the leaders set fire to their dwellings. A glimmer of optimism can be found in the aspirations of the children and the solidarity of the women.

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Reading Lolita in Tehran

Nafisi, Azar

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Nonfiction

Genre: Memoir

Summary:

The author reminisces about her experiences teaching English literature in Iran before, during, and after the revolution and the Iran-Iraq war. Chronology is not important and the book opens near the end of her sojourn in Tehran. A small group of young women who met when they were University students gather in her home to read and discuss English literature. They wear western clothes, remove their veils, and eat sweets. Some have been in prison. They conceal their simple purpose from fathers, husbands, brothers, because their gathering to read Western fiction would be construed as an act of defiance.

In four sections, two named for twentieth-century novels and two for nineteenth-century authors--"Lolita," "Gatsby," "James," and "Austen"--Nafisi constructs a series of flashbacks that describe the events of late 1970s to the 1990s in the inner and outer world of an academic woman. The books and writers used in the section headings have walk-on parts or starring roles that jar in this ostensibly alien context. Yet, they work surprisingly well for the women students, stimulating them to think in new ways about the situation in which they find themselves. Conversely, as the students assimilate the English and American writers into their world, we learn more about their Iran.

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Oryx and Crake: A Novel

Atwood, Margaret

Last Updated: Feb-15-2007
Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Novel

Summary:

Please note that in order to properly annotate this novel, the novel's surprise ending will be revealed here. Snowman--who used to be called, Jimmy--is a rare survivor of a dreadful catastrophe that seems to have been both the product and the demise of modern science. He lives in a tree, clad in rags, hiding from relentless heat and hoarding his precarious cache of food and alcohol, while he tries to obliterate consciousness and avoid contact with a peculiar race of beings, the Crakers. Through a series of reminiscences as he makes his way back to where he once worked, Snowman's past slowly advances to meet his future.

The world heated up to be uninhabitable desert and genetic engineering created more problems (and species! [pigoons, rakunks, wolvogs]) than solutions. People became increasingly reliant on artificial environments--both internal and external--while their purveyors--drug and technology firms--held ever greater but unthinking power. The world was divided into two: the rich, safe controlled spaces and the dangerous chaotic realm of the poor. Then an epidemic wiped out most of the human race.

Two friends are central to the story: brilliant but inscrutable Crake whose nerdy gift for science had a role in engineering the 'pure' Crakers and the horrifying world that they occupy; and beautiful, seductive Oryx whose regard of knowing innocence heaps scorn upon messy human desire and emotion. They are the Yin and Yang of the "constructed" world. Only at the end, the reader learns that Oryx was murdered by Crake, who was slain by Snowman. It seems that his arduous journey was simply to destroy the history of the events that he had written and left behind.

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Annotated by:
Duffin, Jacalyn

Primary Category: Literature / Fiction

Genre: Collection (Short Stories)

Summary:

A collection of short stories loosely connected to each other by centering on the experiences of four people from their first encounters during medical school and continuing into young middle age.

The first and third stories “Getting into Medical School, Part I” and “Part II,” are about study partners, Fitzgerald and Ming, who have trouble admitting their love for each other until she is accepted to medical school and he is not. Ming teaches Fitzgerald how to prepare successfully by passing along learning tips her physician-cousin provided her in exchange for sex. In the second story, Ming meets fellow students Sri and Chen and drifts away from Fitzgerald. In the third, he wrestles with feelings of rejection and misery as he realizes she has opted for a relationship with the more culturally “appropriate” Chen; however, her study tips pay off in more than one way when he meets Ming’s unsavory cousin at his medical school interview.

Later stories describe clinical encounters with specific cases, one of the most memorable being “Winston,” about Sri’s relationship with a paranoid person; the tale is told alternatively from the doctor’s perspective and the patient’s. in “Afterwards,” Sri must explain to a man’s wife and son, how he died suddenly at a strange hairstylist salon; the news disturbs the family who discover that the supposedly impotent diabetic had been a regular at a sex shop.

Fitzgerald and Chen become emergency physicians. Less settled, Fitzgerald tries several settings, including working for an air ambulance company. His problem with alcohol emerges from deep disaffection and brooding resentment over Ming’s callous rejection years earlier and her subsequent marriage to Chen. The problem begins to threaten his judgement and seriously compromises his health when he falls ill.

In the ironically titled “Contact Tracing” both Fitzgerald and Chen contract SARS (the latter from the former) during the (real) 2003 Toronto epidemic. They are isolated in adjoining rooms separated by glass and phone each other for support and discussion. They reminisce about Sri who has died of cancer and muse on the relevance of do-not-resuscitate orders. The outcome is both humorous and surprising.

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Summary:

A saxophone-playing, divorced psychiatrist, Dr. Denis, is baffled by the unexplained arrival of a new patient in his mental hospital. The highly intelligent newcomer, called Rantes, has extraordinary gifts and spends long hours in the yard facing southeast, where he claims to receive communications from his home planet. He is visited by the saintly Beatriz, who works in a church, and Denis asks her questions about Rantes.

The bond between the three people begins to transgress the ordinary boundaries between doctor and patient, and culminates in an excursion to a concert in the park. Charmed by Beethoven's "Song of Joy," Rantes instigates generalized waltzing and takes over from an inexplicably obliging conductor. Back in the asylum, the other patients feel the vibrations emanating from Rantes' concert and engage in a good-humored romp. The doctor is reprimanded for the embarrassing situation, and begins to doubt the integrity of the psychiatric enterprise. A weakened Rantes dies after electroshock therapy and the film ends in ambiguity.

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