Personalistic disease theories

Naturalistic disease theories

In medical anthropology, naturalistic disease theories are those theories of illness, present within a culture, which explain diseases and illnesses in impersonal terms.

One example of a naturalistic disease theory is the theory expressed in western medicine or biomedicine, which links disease and illness to scientific causes. This leaves any personal liability for the disease out of the equation, and the diseases are attributed to organisms such as bacteria or viruses, accidents, or toxic substances.

Other cultures have developed different naturalistic disease theories. One specific example lies in Latin cultures, which place "hot" or "cold" classifications on things like food, drink, and environmental conditions. They believe that the combination of hot and cold substances will cause an unbalanced system that leads to disease. Therefore, one is expected not to have a cold drink after taking a hot bath.


  • Windows on Humanity, Conrad Phillip Kottak, New York: McGraw-Hill, 2005.

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