A light inside a pot : Sites and sources of power emerging from an ethnography of traditional healing in South India

Nambiar, Devaki and Mishra, Arima (2019) A light inside a pot : Sites and sources of power emerging from an ethnography of traditional healing in South India. Global Public Health. ISSN 1744-1692

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Medicine and healing have been critical elements of nation-building and governance in India. There is a clear hierarchy: biomedicine, followed by systems like Ayurveda which are to be ‘mainstreamed,’ and local health traditions, which are to be ‘revitalised’. Mindful that power nonetheless resides in positions of marginality, this analysis drew from a health system ethnography on revitalisation of local health traditions in three southern Indian states. Data from multiple interviews with 51 healers, observations of meetings, healing sessions and events convened by healers, as well as a multi-stakeholder dialogue on local health traditions convened by authors were analysed using a grounded analytical process. The state was a source of power, but in an enmeshed, individualised form. Other sources of power included accomplished others who viewed healers and their practices with respect, healers’ collectives that produced and reinforced power through the exercise of certain rituals, and the sacred calling to heal, which assumed stringent criteria for practice and training, while also creating a moral imperative for service orientation. Our study shows how power rests in or is derived from multiple sites and sources that inhere and interact in critical ways with the state and other systems of medicine.

Item Type: Article
Authors: Nambiar, Devaki and Mishra, Arima
Uncontrolled Keywords: Power, Local health traditions, India, Ethnography, Medical pluralism
Subjects: Technology > Medicine & health > Promotion of health
Divisions: Azim Premji University > School of Development
Full Text Status: Restricted
Related URLs:
URI: http://publications.azimpremjiuniversity.edu.in/id/eprint/1826
Publisher URL: https://doi.org/10.1080/17441692.2018.1564349

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