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Human sickness and health. A biocultural view. By Corinne S. Wood. Palo Alto California Mayfield publishing company. 1979. XVIII + 376 pp. figures tables glossary bibliography index. $17

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describe methods for estimating gene frequencies, testing segregation ratios, correcting for
ascertainment biases, calculating relative
risks and heritabilities for threshold traits,
diagnosing zygosity, estimating heritabilities
from twin data, analyzing quantitative traits
using path coefficients, calculating conditional
probabilities, and computing lod scores for
linkage studies.
For a book of this size and scope, there appear to be relatively few typographical errors
and misstatements. The initial discussion of
the Hardy-Weinberg equilibrium (page 102)
contains several misleading sentences. Contrary to the author's statement, it is not
necessarily true that populations with
genotype frequencies in Hardy- Weinberg proportions are, therefore, in Hardy-Weinberg
equilibrium, since equilibrium requires that
these proportions be maintained from genera-
tion to generation. It is also not generally the
case that the frequency of consanguinity in a
population can be calculated from deviations
from Hardy-Weinberg proportions. In finite
populations, the consanguineous matings that
occur by chance produce no departure from
Hardy-Weinberg expectations. Fortunately,
errors of this sort appear to be rare and they do
not detract greatly from the overall high quality of the volume. The book provides
fascinating reading for anyone interested in
human genetics and should serve as a useful
resource for geneticists and anthropologists
who need upto-date information on areas of
human genetics outside their own specialties.
Southwest Foundation for
Research and Education
Sun Antonio, Texas
Generally, basic and detailed biology has
VIEW. By Corinne S . Wood. Palo Alto, been minimized, while ethnographic examples
California: Mayfield Publishing Company. showing the importance of culture in disease
376 pp., figures, tables, have been expanded. The biology that is pres1979. xviii
glossary, bibliography, index. $ 1 7 . 4 5 ent requires at least an introductory background. In a book that stresses the importance
of culture in disease, the use of examples that
This book has two complementary goals. are traditionally thought to be biologically
The first and paramount one is to provide in- determined would make a stronger case for the
formation not ordinarily presented in medical main argument. For example, although Wood
anthropology texts by stressing the primary does give a brief description of the immune
importance of culture in the patterns and response among higher primates, there is no
prevalence of human health and disease. The mention of the general adaptation syndrome
second, and as the author admits, more dif- and the cognitive perception of threat and
ficult goal is to influence health agencies not subsequent stress produced via hormonal
only to understand the critical role of culture, responses. The latter would have provided a
but to utilize a cross cultural approach that logical example of the importance of using
takes into account a population's ongoing cultural means to combat many types of acute
adaptation to diverse environments when im- and chronic disease afflicting both developed
and third World countries. The relationships
plementing appropriate health care.
At first it is difficult to see why the author between socioeconomic and ecological factors
feels this book is any different, because most and disease epidemiology are well documented
medical anthropology texts do apply a biocul- but in need of much further study that necessit u r d approach and cover the majority of topics tates the cooperation between biomedicine and
discussed here. There are eight chapters: The the social sciences.
The need to fill gaps in the literature and the
Medical History in the Fossil Record; A Common Shared Legacy; Nutrition, Anthropology emphasis on culture does not excuse glaring
and Human Health; Women and Reproduc- omissions in subject matter. There should
tion: Biocultural Enigmas; The New World- A have been some discussion of demography,
Different Perspective; The Syphilis Controver- energetics, and growth and development.
sy; Malaria and the Human Factor; and The Unless the student already has an adequate
Traditional Healer: Holistic in Response to biological background, or will be stimulated to
acquire one, this text might offer interesting
Stress of Disease.
but overly simplistic solutions to problems
arising from complex, interwoven factors between biology and behavior. An introductory
chapter on evolutionary biology and theory
would have helped add cohesion and clarity to
topics otherwise seemingly chosen at random.
A textbook should ideally do more than inform. I t should teach the student how to think
critically. As is done here, and in too many
textbooks, stating alternative hypotheses
without examining their historical contexts
appears to most students as merely more information. In addition, the references for many of
the topics are out of date and not complete.
Although the foregoing are drawbacks, this
is a worthwhile book for several reasons. The
author does not specifically state in the preface
or introduction what topics are not usually
covered in medical anthropology texts. However, in “Women and Reproduction: Biocultural Enigmas” she gets down to business. She
correctly states that although this aspect of
human biology and behavior is critical to our
evolution and adaptation, it receives relatively
no attention. This is due no doubt to the
dominance of male perspectives. This chapter
is unique and a valuable contribution.
Other chapters, such as the ones on malaria
and syphilis, while adding nothing new, are
laconic, informative, and thus good synopses.
Because of the voluminous material available
on these subjects, some instructors might
want to add references and reading material to
cover particular areas.
The chapter, “The New World- a Different
Perspective,” is at least partly innovative.
Wood’s treatment of early Amerindian migrations across Beringia and the screening out of
many Eurasian diseases resulting in lowered
or absent resistance to infection from later
European‘ migrations is strictly status quo.
However, there is a welcome section on African
slavery and colonization. Although her figures
are conservative, the number of Africans killed
over a three hundred year period of slavery,
and her suggestions as to why they, and not
Amerindians, were used, is sure to stimulate
discussion and illustrate the value of an anthropological approach to interpreting human
In sum, the author does achieve her first
goal. Unfortunately, as she herself admits, the
second goal is far more difficult. Her premise,
as most anthropologists would agree, is valid.
The abatement of existing hunger and disease
throughout the world lies in the reorganization
of social and economic priorities rather than in
a strictly biomedical and technological “fix.”
Whichever of these approaches is used, a cross
cultural implementation is necessary in order
for them to be effective. However, if the author
is serious about the second goal, she and all of
us must also focus to a far greater degree on
political perspectives. This is ironic in a text
stressing the importance of culture in human
health and disease.
Uniuersity of Massachusetts
Amherst. Massachusetts
Anderson, D (1981)Eastern Iowa Prehistory. Cook, ND (1980)Stability and Flexibility. A n
Ames, Iowa: Iowa State University Press. 90
Analysis of Natural Systems. Oxford:
pp. $10.95 (cloth).
Pergamon Press. 246 pp. $18.25 (cloth).
Barlow, GW and Silverberg, J (eds) (1980) Graham, CE (ed) (1981)Reproductive Biology
of the Great Apes. New York: Academic
Sociobiology: B e y o n d Nature/Nurture.
Press. 437 pp. $48.50 (cloth).
Boulder, Colorado: Westview Press. 627 pp.
$32.50 (cloth),$15.00 (paper).
Hrdy, SB (1981) The Woman That Neuer
Evolved. Cambridge: Harvard University
Brody, EB (1981) Sex, Contraception and
Press. 256 pp. $17.50 (cloth).
M o t h e r h o o d i n Jamaica. Cambridge:
Harvard University Press. 278 pp. $20.00 Kirk, RL (1981) Aboriginal Man Adaptilzg.
New York: Oxford University Press. 229 pp.
$59.00 (cloth).
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