Who has made Mama Raja ill? Was it witchcraft, evil spirits, malaria or Gods punishment? Dutch researcher Ien Courtens discovered that in the interior of the Birds 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 Birds Head of West Papua heal illnesses. In her doctoral thesis she unravels the different explanations for Mama Rajas 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.
Dr Ien Courtens | EurekAlert!
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