Title: Genezen en gezondheid in Afrika
Authors: Van Wolputte, Steven
Issue Date: 1997
Publisher: Het Spinhuis
Abstract: For most of the global population, biomedicine is de facto insufficient, unaffordable or simply unexisting. At the same time, health and healing (whether western biomedicine, or African ways of healing) are always part of a historical and socio-cultural context; it is precisely this cultural embeddedness that endows these healing traditions with their efficacy. The first chapter offers a limited introduction to the problem of healing and health in the context of Africa south of the Sahara. The second deals with some aspects of the culture-specific meaning of healing and of being healed. It sketches some of the main lines along which the so-called 'traditional' healing cultures in South-Saharan Africa are structured, and introduces some of the aspects of the socio-cultural context in which the traditional-African etiology of illness and misfortune is embedded. Both biomedicine and African healing traditions are characterised by a more profound and culture-specific rationality that surfaces in the therapy offered by the healer as well as in the behaviour of the patient. Chapter three illustrates and argues that biomedicine was embedded in and closely intertwined with a political and socio-economical, exploitative context of colonisation. It deals with biomedicine's failure in attaining its main goal -being the elimination of epidemics and the spread of contagious disease or the eradication of 'the enemies of mankind'. A fourth chapter explores how biomedicine played a major role in constructing the self-image of Europe and the West through projecting its negation on "the black body", and this up to the present. Chapter five, in contrast, deals with the period following Independence, when a new elite took over. Biomedicine became an important tool both in the emancipation from exploitation on the one, and away from the 'traditional' ways on the other hand. Traditional life was thought of as backward and ignorant -constructed as the negation of a 'future made white'. Economical development and technological innovation offered a way out of ignorance, poverty and disease. The apparent failure of this project (the inefficiency and ineffectivity of large-scale and vertical eradication programs and the particular problems biomedicine, for example in Africa, was dealing with) gave rise to the Alma Ata conference in 1978, that introduced an ideological revolution in the international discourse and conceptualisation of health and healing; looking with hindsight it however failed to bring about the result it initially promised ('health for all by the year 2000') -one of the reasons being the dominance of a western paradigm, that for example reduced the relevance of African healing to herbal knowledge. Moreover, the integration of various healing tradition did not have to be invented, as it already existed (and still does) in the daily praxis of health seeking behaviour. A sixth chapter tries to answer the question what biomedicine might mean in the current context of deprivation and violence that has hit hard upon many African countries and regions, when institutions and the state are by no means capable of fulfilling the role they were destined for, or when they have renounced it? What is within the powers of biomedicine if everyday life is guided by "the politics of the belly", when the so-called formal economy has de facto ceased to exist? This book offers a general introduction to the complex domain of healing and of being healed. Taking an anthropological stance, it aims at laying bare the assumptions that commonly mold both lay expectations when we venture in 'otherness' or strangeness, and the image-building and imagery among professionals (practicioners, health care workers, ...). Simultaneously, it highlights the dynamics and creativity as an inherent capacity of 'culture', its inventivity and flexibility, but its contextuality as well. The book is mainly written for a non-anthropological audience, and introduces the reader into the broad and dispersed field of especially Anglo-Saxon literature on this wide-ranging topic.
ISBN: 90-5589-053-7
Publication status: published
KU Leuven publication type: ABa
Appears in Collections:Institute for Anthropological Research in Africa

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