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Periodical article Periodical article Leiden University catalogue Leiden University catalogue WorldCat catalogue WorldCat
Title:On the Creation and Dissolution of Ethnomedical Systems in the Medical Ethnography of Africa
Author:Pool, Robert
Periodical:Africa: Journal of the International African Institute
Geographic term:Cameroon
Subjects:Mbum (Cameroon, Central African Republic)
traditional medicine
Peoples of Africa (Ethnic Groups)
Health and Nutrition
External link:https://www.jstor.org/stable/1161092
Abstract:Between the mid-1970s and mid-1980s, a number of publications appeared in which earlier ethnographies of illness and misfortune in Africa were criticized for placing too much emphasis on supernatural causation and neglecting natural causation and practical medical behaviour. This article criticizes this attempt to cast African aetiologies in a new light. A discussion of Evans-Pritchard's description of Zande aetiology demonstrates that the recent reinterpretations of Zande aetiology are mistaken. Following a discussion of Wimbum aetiology and their concept of medicine, based on fieldwork carried out in the Grassfields of Cameroon between 1985 and 1987, the author argues that the emphasis on naturalistic causation and practical activity in the definition of African medical systems does not make them broader, as the protagonists claim, but narrower, and that the 'broader' descriptions of medical systems are not more accurate representations of how Africans interpret and cope with illness but biomedically determined constructs imposed on African culture through medical ethnography. The article concludes with a plea for the dissolution of the concept of 'ethnomedical systems'. Bibliogr., notes, ref., sum. in English and French.