Forum for Science, Industry and Business

Sponsored by:     3M 
Search our Site:

 

Witchcraft, God’s punishment or just malaria in West Papua?

16.03.2005


Who has made Mama Raja ill? Was it witchcraft, evil spirits, malaria or God’s punishment? Dutch researcher Ien Courtens discovered that in the interior of the Bird’s Head of West Papua, the presumed cause of the illness determines the choice of treatment.



By studying the illness progression of Mama Raja, Courtens discovered how inhabitants of the village of Ayawasi in the interior of the Bird’s Head of West Papua heal illnesses. In her doctoral thesis she unravels the different explanations for Mama Raja’s illness cause, and reconstructs the path she followed in search of healing. This approach provided answers to Courtens’ main research question: How are choices for healing performances related to religious change and gender?

Indigenous and biomedical therapies are interchangeable in the initial phase of the illness. Patients frequently choose an indigenous treatment first, such as those learnt during initiation or via dreams. If this treatment does not work, help is sought at the outpatients’ clinic of the missionary hospital. The opposite also occurs. Then ill persons first of all put their hope in biomedical treatments. Not infrequently, people combine these two healing methods until their health improves.


In this initial phase, individuals are mostly pragmatic in their choice. They experience the biomedical treatment as an ’easy way’ of getting cured which works relatively quickly. Conversely indigenous methods are seen as ’hard work’: you have to search for medicinal leaves, roots and tree bark in the rainforest. Furthermore the preparation and use of the ingredients as well as their uptake in the body is a time-consuming process.

Why more important than how

If individuals do not recover in this initial phase, they enter the following phase in their search for healing. Then interpretations of the possible causes of the illness are important. Mama Raja’s case clearly demonstrates that why she became ill and who was responsible for this were more important than questions about the nature of the illness. On the basis of the why and who questions, individuals look for causes of the illness, such as misbehaviour that invokes the anger of ancestral spirits and God, as well as possible perpetrators: individuals who practise magic, witches and evil spirits.

As the majority of the local population became practising Catholics following the arrival of the missionaries, they also consider the breaking of Christian rules and the ensuing punishment from God as a cause of illness. Further the population nowadays recognises the existence of diseases such as malaria and flu as a biological response of the body. In their eyes these biological causes do not conflict with the idea of punishment as a cause, but instead compliment this.

The research was financed by the Netherlands Foundation for the Advancement of Tropical Research (WOTRO).

Dr Ien Courtens | EurekAlert!
Further information:
http://www.nwo.nl

More articles from Health and Medicine:

nachricht A promising target for kidney fibrosis
21.04.2017 | Brigham and Women's Hospital

nachricht Stem cell transplants: activating signal paths may protect from graft-versus-host disease
20.04.2017 | Technische Universität München

All articles from Health and Medicine >>>

The most recent press releases about innovation >>>

Die letzten 5 Focus-News des innovations-reports im Überblick:

Im Focus: Making lightweight construction suitable for series production

More and more automobile companies are focusing on body parts made of carbon fiber reinforced plastics (CFRP). However, manufacturing and repair costs must be further reduced in order to make CFRP more economical in use. Together with the Volkswagen AG and five other partners in the project HolQueSt 3D, the Laser Zentrum Hannover e.V. (LZH) has developed laser processes for the automatic trimming, drilling and repair of three-dimensional components.

Automated manufacturing processes are the basis for ultimately establishing the series production of CFRP components. In the project HolQueSt 3D, the LZH has...

Im Focus: Wonder material? Novel nanotube structure strengthens thin films for flexible electronics

Reflecting the structure of composites found in nature and the ancient world, researchers at the University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign have synthesized thin carbon nanotube (CNT) textiles that exhibit both high electrical conductivity and a level of toughness that is about fifty times higher than copper films, currently used in electronics.

"The structural robustness of thin metal films has significant importance for the reliable operation of smart skin and flexible electronics including...

Im Focus: Deep inside Galaxy M87

The nearby, giant radio galaxy M87 hosts a supermassive black hole (BH) and is well-known for its bright jet dominating the spectrum over ten orders of magnitude in frequency. Due to its proximity, jet prominence, and the large black hole mass, M87 is the best laboratory for investigating the formation, acceleration, and collimation of relativistic jets. A research team led by Silke Britzen from the Max Planck Institute for Radio Astronomy in Bonn, Germany, has found strong indication for turbulent processes connecting the accretion disk and the jet of that galaxy providing insights into the longstanding problem of the origin of astrophysical jets.

Supermassive black holes form some of the most enigmatic phenomena in astrophysics. Their enormous energy output is supposed to be generated by the...

Im Focus: A Quantum Low Pass for Photons

Physicists in Garching observe novel quantum effect that limits the number of emitted photons.

The probability to find a certain number of photons inside a laser pulse usually corresponds to a classical distribution of independent events, the so-called...

Im Focus: Microprocessors based on a layer of just three atoms

Microprocessors based on atomically thin materials hold the promise of the evolution of traditional processors as well as new applications in the field of flexible electronics. Now, a TU Wien research team led by Thomas Müller has made a breakthrough in this field as part of an ongoing research project.

Two-dimensional materials, or 2D materials for short, are extremely versatile, although – or often more precisely because – they are made up of just one or a...

All Focus news of the innovation-report >>>

Anzeige

Anzeige

Event News

Expert meeting “Health Business Connect” will connect international medical technology companies

20.04.2017 | Event News

Wenn der Computer das Gehirn austrickst

18.04.2017 | Event News

7th International Conference on Crystalline Silicon Photovoltaics in Freiburg on April 3-5, 2017

03.04.2017 | Event News

 
Latest News

NASA's Fermi catches gamma-ray flashes from tropical storms

25.04.2017 | Physics and Astronomy

Researchers invent process to make sustainable rubber, plastics

25.04.2017 | Materials Sciences

Transfecting cells gently – the LZH presents a GNOME prototype at the Labvolution 2017

25.04.2017 | Life Sciences

VideoLinks
B2B-VideoLinks
More VideoLinks >>>