Public Health, Science and the Economy : The onto-politics of traditional medicine in Namibia

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http://urn.fi/URN:ISBN:978-951-51-1040-4
Julkaisun nimi: Public Health, Science and the Economy : The onto-politics of traditional medicine in Namibia
Tekijä: Meincke, Maylin
Muu tekijä: Helsingin yliopisto, valtiotieteellinen tiedekunta, politiikan ja talouden tutkimuksen laitos
Opinnäytteen taso: Väitöskirja (monografia)
Kuuluu julkaisusarjaan: Publications of the Department of Political and Economic Studies 27 - URN:ISSN:2243-3643
Tiivistelmä: This is an ethnographic and discourse analytical study into the onto-politics of traditional medicine in Namibia. The discourses and practices that shape, make and imagine traditional medicine at the international, national and individual level are examined. Traditional medicine in this study is not something that can be discovered, institutionalised, controlled and improved to be part of the modern Namibian state. Instead, traditional medicine is created through the multiple ways, in which Namibians and others already engage, to define what it is and what role it can officially play. It is not a system that consists of traditional healers, their practices and the natural resources they utilise, but it entails practices and discourses of the state, researchers, aid and non-governmental organisations, the private sector and the Namibian society at large. Traditional medicine is a product of international, national, local and individual utterances and practices, and it feeds into the imaginary space of a developed and modern Namibia. Methodologically, this thesis departs from conventional research into traditional medicine in Africa, which primarily focuses on in-depth studies of individual healers practices. These are framed either as cultural-specific therapeutic methods, as individual herbal medical exercises based on plants containing active compounds for potential new drugs, or as occult practices within the realm of witchcraft. This study deflects from the conceptualisation of traditional medicine as a traditional healing practice that is local or individual, and distinctly African. Instead, it seeks to ontologically re-define and re-politicise traditional medicine and to bring it into the wider global formations of subjects and objects in the field of health, sciences, and politics. This is achieved by decentring and deconstructing traditional medicine as a folk category that receives meaning either as a national cultural heritage, an alternative medical system, as a traditional knowledge system, or as an anti-witchcraft practice. The respective discourses and practices on international, national and individual level are analysed through applying the Logics and Critical Explanation (LCE) approach by Jason Glynos and David Howarth, which draws from Foucauldian genealogy, Derridan deconstruction and Lacanian psychoanalysis. To this was added the insights by Lene Hansen s discourse analysis, Homi Bhabha s concept of mimicry, and Gayatri Spivak s subaltern. The data of this study is based on five months of ethnographic fieldwork in Namibia, mostly Windhoek, and poststructural discourse analyses of policy documents. The study s results indicate that traditional medicine in Namibia is discursively split between culture and knowledge. What is envisioned, negotiated and created is a traditional medicine that is, on the one hand, a cultural artefact, a traditional heritage that is part of a national and African identity. It is something that can be staged, exhibited and celebrated. On the other hand, it is a knowledge resource that, once appropriated and tested, is subsumed under biomedical knowledge and practice or under the economic system with the aim to improve and develop Namibia. Traditional medicinal knowledge, therefore, transforms into scientific knowledge or a potential commodity governed by the state. Knowledge that is considered profitable and true is transferred to other systems of knowledge and practices, relinquishing traditional medicine to performances of culture and traditions with traditional healers as main actors. At the national and international level, traditional healers are spoken for and about. They remain in a subaltern position in Namibia. Despite using subjectivities and objectivities created by these discourses and practices for their own advantages, traditional healers do not have the power to change and forge traditional medicine in Namibia according to their imaginations and preferences. Instead, they inhabit and claim for themselves the discursive field that is outside of official and state discourse and practices: witchcraft. On the basis of its ethnographic material this study proposes to read witchcraft discourse as a re-/deflection of the fantasies of development that is, of a healthy Namibian population, economic development and independence, and the development of a modern democratic nation state. Traditional medicine articulated as an anti-witchcraft practice, therefore, addresses the negative side-effects and by-products of social and economic development and its failures. By decentring and deconstructing traditional medicine at international and national level, this study reveals the phantasmagorical and arbitrary character of the various constructions. The occult aspects, which are generally considered beyond reason and an uneasy fit, become just one of the imaginative and performative aspects of traditional medicine . Traditional medicine and its occult aspects, therefore, are not relics from the past. On the contrary, traditional medicine as a folk category is already an integral aspect of contemporary international and national imaginations in the context of health and development.n/a
URI: URN:ISBN:978-951-51-1040-4
http://hdl.handle.net/10138/158962
Päiväys: 2016-01-22
Avainsanat: Development Studies
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