While we may like to think that they no longer exist in today’s United States, cultural tensions are still overwhelmingly present. One example of such tension in the recent history of the United States is beautifully illustrated in Anne Fadiman’s 1997 book, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures. Fadiman tells the true story of a young girl, Lia Lee, diagnosed with epilepsy, and the tensions between her parents’ traditional beliefs and her Western-educated doctors’ ideas about medical care. Though a variety of approaches may be helpful to use in interpreting this text, I found Mircea Eliade’s theories in The Sacred and the Profane especially so. Eliade writes about “two modes of being in the world” (one being “the sacred” and the other “the profane”), and advocates for the merits of maintaining religious practice and belief in a secular world. After introducing Eliade’s work more completely, I will summarize the important ideas brought up by Fadiman. I will then argue that Eliade’s theories provide a helpful framework through which to understand the case presented in The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down.
 Anne Fadiman, The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down: A Hmong Child, Her American Doctors, and the Collision of Two Cultures (New York: Farrar, Straus, and Giroux, 1997).
 Mircea Eliade, The Sacred and the Profane: The Nature of Religion, trans. Willard Trask (New York: Harcourt, Inc., 1959).
 Ibid., 14.
Religions; Religions -- Philosophy; Religions -- History
Relics, Remnants, and Religion: an Undergraduate Journal in Religious Studies
The University of Puget Sound
"The Sacred, The Profane, and The Spirit,"
Relics, Remnants, and Religion: An Undergraduate Journal in Religious Studies: Vol. 2
, Article 6.
Available at: https://soundideas.pugetsound.edu/relics/vol2/iss2/6