Yesterday was the Oxford Brookes Science Bazaar 2015! This event showcases all sorts of scientific things in a fun way to interact with the public, and I volunteered to assist Prof. Jason Danely at his anthropology stall.
The stall was called 'Healing Wings', and we spent the day making origami paper cranes with visitors. I know this doesn't sound like your traditional science activity (I bet you were thinking rockets and slime, right?), but we were part of a zone that dealt with healing and medicine. As anthropologists, we cannot ignore the contribution of cultural practices when it comes to healing, and what better way to display this then with paper cranes, a Japanese symbol of spiritual healing.
If you don't know, it is a Japanese belief that if you can make 1000 paper cranes (千羽鶴 - senbazuru) , you will be granted a wish by the crane. Usually this is associated with asking for long life or recovery from illness or injury, which makes them popular gifts for loved ones. Paper cranes were made by Japanese people after the bombings of Hiroshima and Nagasaki. There is a famous story of Sadoko Sasaki, the girl who was diagnosed with leukemia after the bombings and tried to make 1000 paper cranes, but sadly died before she could finish. This inspired people to strive for peace, and a statue of Sadoko Sasaki holding a golden crane was erected at the Hiroshima Peace Park.
When considering medicine, I think that it is important to include the multitudes of cultural beliefs that make up a huge part of so many peoples' lives. For example, for many Chinese people, western medicine is a relatively new concept, and so you find many people may seek new medicines, but also seek traditional healing (e.g. acupuncture). It has been argued that these treatments, whilst they may have been proven to be "ineffective" in a medical sense, can still make a significant impact on peoples' health. It is the meaning placed on the activity or treatment that has been observed to produce physiological effects (similar to the effects seen when placebos are used). It could be argued therefore that the cultural and spiritual side of healing is an essential part of our being, and we should embrace them wholeheartedly.
As for the bazaar, it was a great success and I believe that Prof. Danely's stall attracted a lot of attention (hurrah for anthropology!). If you would like to know more about Prof. Jason Danely and his work then click here, he has written a very interesting book called 'Aging and Loss: Mourning and Maturity in Contemporary Japan', you should have a look (click the book title).
Prof. Danely (left) and myself at the Oxford Brookes Science Bazaar 2015.
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