Doing Development in West Africa: A Reader by and for Undergraduates
This chapter challenges and expands upon how Euro-Americans conceive how a medical system “works.” Exploring the social and political context of medicine in a West African village—how indigenous medicine is embedded within social relations and organized by social groups, how disease is understood as social relations gone awry, and thus how medicine also does social “work”—this chapter demonstrates that biomedical categories are at pains to come to terms with village medical practice. Here the body is conceived as relational, always more than biology alone, and the treatment of disease attends to healing social relations to cure the body. The therapeutic logic of three dire maladies—infertility, hydropsy, snakebite—is explored to illustrate disease’s social origins and cure. The author ends with a call to global health officials to take seriously local categories of medicine and treatment.