The African Transformation of Western Medicine and the Dynamics of Global Cultural Exchange

The African Transformation of Western Medicine and the Dynamics of Global Cultural Exchange

David Baronov
Copyright Date: 2008
Published by: Temple University Press
Pages: 264
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  • Book Info
    The African Transformation of Western Medicine and the Dynamics of Global Cultural Exchange
    Book Description:

    Beginning with the colonial era, Western biomedicine has radically transformed African medical beliefs and practices. Conversely, in using Western biomedicine, Africans have also transformed it.The African Transformation of Western Medicine and the Dynamics of Global Cultural Exchangecontends that contemporary African medical systems-no less "biomedical" than Western medicine-in fact greatly enrich and expand the notion of biomedicine, reframing it as a global cultural form deployed across global networks of cultural exchange.The book analyzes biomedicine as a complex and dynamic sociocultural form, the conceptual premises of which make it necessarily subject to ongoing change and development as it travels the globe. David Baronov captures the complexities of this cultural exchange by using world-systems analysis in a way that places global cultural processes on equal footing with political and economic processes. In doing so, he both allows the story of Africa's transformation of "Western" biomedicine to be told and offers new insights into the capitalist world system.

    eISBN: 978-1-59213-917-0
    Subjects: Health Sciences

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. Acknowledgments
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. 1 The Origins of African Biomedicine
    (pp. 1-32)

    The popular image of Western biomedicine in Africa is that of a benevolent European gift, whose purpose—the improved health of Africans—bespeaks a spirit of unqualified generosity and kindness.¹ While directly fortifying the African body, biomedicine has also been credited with indirectly “civilizing” the African mind and spirit—introducing modern scientific principles to supplant primitive superstition and witchcraft. It follows that biomedicine is itself portrayed as a foreign (and Western) entity whose universal principles, properly understood, may be applied to equal effect across all societies and peoples. Given the force of this standard narrative, the impressive task set for...

  5. 2 Dissecting Western Medicine
    (pp. 33-76)

    Biomedicine emerged in the mid-19th century, as a hybrid branch of the biological sciences, at a unique historical moment in the sociocultural development of the capitalist world-system.¹ By the early decades of the 20th century, having demonstrated its value as an effective tool for the diagnosis, treatment, and prevention of disease, Western scientific medicine had become singularly identified with biomedicine. The techniques and symbols of biomedicine (such as vaccinations, laboratory testing, and high-tech gadgetry) captured the popular imagination of the West and its methods were associated with advanced, “scientific” medical care. At the same time, as an emerging profit-generating venture,...

  6. 3 Biomedicineʹs Civilizing Mission
    (pp. 77-123)

    A surprisingly brief period of continent-wide colonial rule in the late 19th and early 20th centuries provided the pretext for the introduction of biomedicine into Africa. The European Scramble for Africa highlighted an era of unprecedented imperialist expansion when the 19th-century rise of industrial capitalism undermined the lucrative sinews of mercantile colonialism. The major industrial powers moved aggressively to carve out territorial claims and the armies of Western imperialism established new exploitative relationships between distinct cultures and peoples based on explicit forms of racial-cultural domination.¹ Colonial rule embodied a naked policy of the Western powers to secure the raw materials...

  7. 4 African Pluralistic Medicine and Its Biomedical Antecedents
    (pp. 124-178)

    The analysis of biomedicine in Chapter 2 began with a critique of the distortions introduced by its conventional depiction as a set of discrete phenomenal forms—those associated with biomedicine as a scientific enterprise, as a symbolic-cultural expression, and as an expression of social power—before positing its necessary constitution as an ontological whole. In the case of “premodern” and “prescientific” African pluralistic-medical systems, the matter is otherwise. This follows, in part, from traditional Western descriptions of social development and modernization as a linear, multistage process in which individual societies are analyzed in the context of specific nations or regions...

  8. 5 African Biomedicine
    (pp. 179-214)

    The late 20th-century advent of African biomedicine signals a uniquely African contribution to biomedicine as a singular historical-cultural formation and constituent element of the capitalist world-system.¹ Remarkable in geohistorical scope and sociocultural complexity, African biomedicine reveals the acrid residue of colonial/postcolonial Western aggressions alongside the striking African resolve to challenge and remake centuries-old Western medical beliefs and practices. Indeed, the history of biomedicine in Africa chronicles, at one and the same time, the transformation of African beliefs and practices in the wake of a formidable historical-cultural formationandthe transformation of a formidable historical-cultural formation in the wake of African...

  9. References
    (pp. 215-240)
  10. Index
    (pp. 241-248)
  11. Back Matter
    (pp. 249-249)