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Healing Roots: Anthropology in Life and Medicine

Julie Laplante
Copyright Date: 2015
Edition: 1
Published by: Berghahn Books
Pages: 302
https://www.jstor.org/stable/j.ctt9qd296
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  • Book Info
    Healing Roots
    Book Description:

    Umhlonyane, also known asArtemisia afra, is one of the oldest and best-documented indigenous medicines in South Africa. This bush, which grows wild throughout the sub-Saharan region, smells and tastes like "medicine," thus easily making its way into people's lives and becoming the choice of everyday healing for Xhosa healer-diviners and Rastafarian herbalists. This "natural" remedy has recently sparked curiosity as scientists search for new molecules against a tuberculosis pandemic while hoping to recognize indigenous medicine. Laplante followsumhlonyaneon its trails and trials of becoming a biopharmaceutical - from the "open air" to controlled environments - learning from the plant and from the people who use it with hopes in healing.

    eISBN: 978-1-78238-555-4
    Subjects: Sociology, Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-vii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. viii-ix)
  4. Acknowledgements
    (pp. x-xi)
  5. List of Abbreviations
    (pp. xii-xii)
  6. Introduction. Tracing the Preclinical Trial of an Indigenous Plant
    (pp. 1-11)

    Anthropology in life is an effort to ‘follow what is going on’ (Ingold 2011: 14). Life as a movement of opening can be understood in positive terms of healing, renewal, growth and paths along which life can keep on going; however, movement is also about falling down, destruction or dying, which are also paths of becoming something else. In such movements in life involving materials, some promise the riddance of malignant spirits or current bothersome ‘body-in-the-world’ orientations. Other movements, for their part, promise the elimination, destruction or slowing down of the replication of targeted bacterium. A nuance between the two...

  7. Chapter 1 Knowing Umhlonyane/Artemisia afra
    (pp. 12-43)

    Umhlonyaneis easily recognized by its grayish-green foliage and its pungent, sweet smell as soon as it is cut, brushed against or even as it sways with the wind. When touched it leaves the fingers sticky. With its bitter taste and refreshing aroma, a recurrent memory evoked when I asked aboutumhlonyaneis that it smells and tastes like ‘medicine’. It accommodates perfectly well to the townships of Cape Town, where most of the healers I met live with one of its bushes growing in the backyard, and most of the homes I visited kept it dried in the kitchen,...

  8. Chapter 2 Engaging in Medicine
    (pp. 44-75)

    When I asked a Xhosaisangoma(healer-diviner) ‘How doesumhlonyanework?’, I was invited to be immersed in the world through drum sounds. It shows how a simple question can be answered in very different ways. I had designed my start-up question to get at the heart of the preclinical process I aimed to understand. It is only during a conversation with the lead pharmacologist involved in TICIPS’ preclinical trial ofArtemisia afrathat I learned he aimed to answer this question as well. He explained exactly this: ‘How does it work’ is the basic science trial question. The indigenous...

  9. Chapter 3 Tracing Medicine: Wayfaring
    (pp. 76-133)

    Tracing medicine, or following what is ‘going on’ in making medicine ‘work’ in the world, is to move through various mediums in which people are engaged. A specific preclinical trial indicates the trails to follow, experiencing where they lead. I have thus far explained the tools and stance I have largely borrowed from phenomenology and tailored to an anthropological approach. In this chapter I introduce the way I entered the field, first locating the mediums navigated while tracing medicine, what it felt like to move through them and how I was able to grasp their realities. Second I describe how...

  10. Chapter 4 Imagining Indigeneity
    (pp. 134-158)

    Clinical trials ofmuthi,or broadly speaking of any South African indigenous medicine unrecognizable in biomedicine, are undertaken with the hope of retrieving the dignity of a people through recognition of their knowledge. RCTs give hope of a way to finally prove to the rest of the world that a ‘traditional’ medicine works. Adams’s (2002) research in clinical trials of indigenous medicine in Tibet made her call the process one of randomized controlled crime. In her research the trials of an herbal remedy can only benefit those who set the rules of the game. For the Tibetan doctor, only two...

  11. Chapter 5 Healing the Nation
    (pp. 159-183)

    The South African peninsula assembles one of the largest groups of Rastafarians in the world, especially the regions of the Northern Cape, Western Cape, Gauteng, Free State, Limpopo and North West Provinces in South Africa and Lesotho, Swaziland Mozambique and Botswana (Mantula 2006: 1). The Rastafarian live according to ancient African roots meant to heal the past through immediacy. With them I learned from their practices with plants, including A.afra,and from the centrality of music in healing. I learned how they collaborate with Xhosaizangomaas well as occupy the markets selling herbs. The roots of the movement...

  12. Chapter 6 Dreams, Ancestors and Sound Healing
    (pp. 184-202)

    My encounter with a Xhosaisangomawas a turning point in my research; a gesture expressing howmuthiwas to be felt to know it for healing was particularly telling for my research. In contrast with Rastafarianbossiedoktor’s concrete engagements with some plants as commodities to sell in their stalls, plants in their materialities are both less visible and more deeply entangled withinisangomapractices. In this chapter I explain what I learned with Xhosaizangoma.I first tell of my own experiences with izangoma and more broadly introduce these practices within the current context of the Cape. Second, I...

  13. Chapter 7 Weaving Molecules with Life
    (pp. 203-228)

    Molecular biologists paved my entry into the preclinical process, sharing their concerns with the notion of efficacy in dealings with indigenous medicine. Concerns with efficacy within the preclinical process at the interstices between a quest to find a cure againstMy cobacterium tuberculosisand a quest to retrieve African dignity are played out around life, modifying, controlling, anatomizing and engineering it at the molecular level. In this chapter I show the ways in which molecular legitimation is dealt with by the molecular biologists involved in the preclinical trial ofA. afra.First I delve into the science of molecular biology,...

  14. Conclusion. Imagining the Clinical Trial
    (pp. 229-257)

    KnowingA. afrais done in mediums through varying roots and routes, in controlled environments and in the ‘open air’, learning about and from the plant, through ancestors, dreams and sounds as well as in attempts to transcend contexts to heal universal biological bodies. The clinical trial process can be imagined as tending solely to ‘life itself’; however, this is not done in practice, nor is efficacy of a molecule in a human cell ever fully disentangled from broader life-making processes in-the-world. I have shown how numerous problems arise during a process aiming to reconcile the search for a worldly...

  15. References
    (pp. 258-275)
  16. Index
    (pp. 276-289)