Accepted Paper:

Man, medicine and foods: the healing power of foods among the indigenous people in Bangladesh  
Muhammad Ala Uddin (University of Chittagong)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines food as medicine at the biosocial aspects of healing. It explores the medicinal power of foods among the indigenous people of Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) in Bangladesh.

Paper long abstract:

The Chittagong Hill Tracts (CHT) is a unique part of Bangladesh, with a mountainous ecosystem rich in biological and cultural diversity. The CHT hosts 11 indigenous communities, who depend mostly on jum (swidden) for foodstuff. Besides jum, they also gather necessary foods and plants from nearby forests. The long-cherished food practices protect them from illness and heal when needed. This paper explores the medicinal power of 'hill foods'.

The ethnographic study finds that 'hill foods' are both food and medicine to the indigenous people. Without knowing the biological aspects of healing, they practice them for long. Here, food and medicine synchronize well both ecologically and culturally. Thus, this paper also deals with the biopolitical dimensions of food as medicine. In the past, local 'hill foods' were sufficient to provide meals to the indigenous people that eventually fulfilled nutritional as well as medicinal needs. However, because of increased population and land encroachment, now the jums are unable to meet the demands of the indigenous people. As a result, they also depend on 'imported foods'. In the past, they were very strong and healthy; but nowadays, they do not possess sound health. With 'imported foods,' they face several kinds of unknown diseases. Still, they largely depend on local foods for nutrition and health. While modern medicine fails to cure some diseases or too expensive to afford, the majority Bengali people also rely on 'hill foods' for treatment. Indigenous people urge the importance of government support and promotion for local medicinal foods.

Panel Med03
Food as medicine: biosocialities of eating in health and illness