Johannessen - Chapter 09 | eBooks | Non-Fiction

Johannessen - Chapter 09

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Medical practice among the Kichwa-speaking, native population of the lower Napo River in Ecuador, the Naporuna, appears to be a classical situation of contemporary medical pluralism with 'traditional medicine' (or 'ethnomedicine') and 'Western biomedicine' as its main elements. This article is about one specific aspect of the pluralistic medical practice of the Naporuna, which gained increasing importance for the medical anthropological fieldwork I conducted in this region from 1997 to 1999. The question I will focus on is how an indigenous concept, like the Kichwa-notion samay, shapes the perception of biomedical devices and services by Naporuna patients and their relatives.

In Kichwa-language dictionaries and related ethnographic writings, samay is usually translated as 'breath', 'respiration' or 'rest' (Orr and Wrisley 1965, Mugica 1979, Cordero 1992). Other, more extensive interpretations and my own observations suggest that the notion samay refers, at the same time, to a very broad and complex understanding of such diverse issues (from a 'Western' point of view) like 'soul' or 'soul substance', 'life force', 'personhood', the 'inner will' and something akin to the physical 'resistance' of a person (cf. Palacio 1992, Guzmán 1997, Macdonald 1999, Uzendoski 2000).

Medical practice among the Kichwa-speaking, native population of the lower Napo River in Ecuador, the Naporuna, appears to be a classical situation of contemporary medical pluralism with 'traditional medicine' (or 'ethnomedicine') and 'Western bi
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