Introduction

The last quarter of the 20th century has seen a shift in the social sciences, especially in anthropology, from objectified descriptions of the body in health and illness to subjective, in-depth explications of the body as lived. The experience of health and illness has been a central theme in medical anthropology in particular, and has been mirrored in other social and health science disciplines as well, including sociology, philosophy, nursing, and social medicine (Benner, 1994; A. Frank, 1995, Toombs, 1987, 1993; Turner, 1992, 1996; Williams & Bendelow, 1998). This shift in how health is viewed by social scientists is part of a broader interpretive turn within the social sciences that has heralded a focus on experience of all sorts. Within this interpretive, phenomenological realm, medical anthropology and cultural anthropology have been closely entwined since the rise of this perspective. In cultural anthropology Bruner (1986, p. 5) has characterized the anthropology of experience: "Lived experience ... as thought and desire, word and image, is the primary reality."

Illness can be seen as one type of experience. A variety of terms have been used to describe work that falls within the domain of the phenomenology of health and illness, including lived experience, embodied experience, and bodily distress. Some of this work examines experience, or sensation, within the immediate cultural context, while other work seeks to connect experience with its political and economic implications. What all of this work has in common is an emphasis on how some sort of distress is experienced and expressed through the body and in everyday life. Thus, a key element of a phenome-nological approach is not only on experience but on the meanings that attach to that experience, as well.

The phenomenology of health and illness encompasses many topics within medical anthropology such as healing, death and dying, and violence, to name only a few. In this entry I will touch on work in a wide range of areas, including relevant work in cultural anthropology that cross-fertilizes with medical anthropology.

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