Proceedings of The 4th International Academic Conference on Research in Social Sciences
Problematic Linear Development Discourse in Practice: Rationality in Traditional Healing Systems amidst Pluralism of Health Choices in Nepal
This research explores the ways in which health and illnesses are understood and experienced by people in Nepal through a multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in the southern Lumbini region. Health choices and healing practices in contemporary Nepal offer a diverse set of options ranging from doctors, nurses, traditional birth attendants, acupuncturists, Tibetan healers, Ayurvedic practitioners and herbal doctors to spiritual healers, shamans, sokhas, lamas, guruwas, dhamis and jhakris. Medical anthropological analysis shows that the modern health care discourse in Nepal emphasizes on the medically pluralistic nature of health choices of people as a norm rather than an exception. However, as Western style biomedicine is central to Nepali people’s construction of the meaning of development (bikas), the development discourse in contemporary Nepal perceives traditional healing practices as hinderance to development, and emphasizes on the need for rural villages in Nepal to adopt ‘modern’ health care. This paper identifies this linear development discourse in practice as problematic and highlights the polarized understanding of the rural-urban dichotomy as limiting. It argues that there is a need for policymakers, development workers, healthcare planners, and implementers at international and national levels to understand the rationality behind tradition healing rituals. The understanding of traditional healing systems as having a rational function in societies would allow these practices to be perceived not as a hinderance, but as a crucial component of development. Acknowledging the rationality would contribute to reshaping the current flawed linear discourse by promoting context sensitive, and local perspective centered approach to development.
keywords: misfortunes; illness; biomedicine; cosmopolitanism; medical anthropology.