Traditional thought and modern western surgery

Pearl Katz, Faris R. Kirkland

Research output: Contribution to journalArticlepeer-review

8 Scopus citations


This study, based in part on anthropological field work with surgeons, is an examination of some aspects of traditional thinking and practices which coexist with, and are embedded in, the scientific thinking and practices of modern surgery. The focus is on the role of these beliefs and practices in modern surgical culture in understanding the causes and prevention of post-operative infections. Three beliefs and practices that exist in traditional and modern medical systems are examined: (A) personalistic disease causes and cures; (B) myriad endogenous and exogenous disease causes; and (C) ritual practices. The adaptive and nonadaptive functions of these beliefs and practices in modern surgery are explored.

Original languageEnglish (US)
Pages (from-to)1175-1181
Number of pages7
JournalSocial Science and Medicine
Issue number12
StatePublished - 1988
Externally publishedYes


  • infection
  • ritual
  • surgery
  • traditional medicine

ASJC Scopus subject areas

  • Health(social science)
  • History and Philosophy of Science


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