Accepted Paper:

From ignorance to stigmatization: changing faces of medical pluralism  

Author:

Tanja Bukovcan (University of Zagreb)

Paper short abstract:

This paper is based on my PhD research (2005-2007) which dealt with interrelatedness and co-existence of biomedical and non-biomedical systems in the city of Zagreb, Croatia. The process of rapid adoption and introduction of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to Zagreb was evident after the fall of communism and was shaped by the context of transitional postsocialism.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is based on my PhD research (2005-2007) which dealt with interrelatedness and co-existence of biomedical and non-biomedical systems in the city of Zagreb, Croatia. The process of rapid adoption and introduction of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) to Zagreb was evident after the fall of communism and was shaped by the context of transitional postsocialism.

The staring points of this research were the patients and their attitudes towards illness, health, wellbeing and suffering which determined their choice of therapies and healers. I looked at which factors (cultural, social, generational, educational, religious, political-ideological, financial, and emotional) determined their choice of therapies. Secondly, I also looked at the feelings of social exclusion the CAM users (and practitioners) reported. Thirdly, I examined the current political discourses surrounding the legislation of CAM in Croatia, now presented as liberal, democratic and a pro-EU type of legislation, versus more conservative, Catholic views sceptical towards plurality and multiple realities.

As an ethnographer, I was faced with moving stories of loss and trauma, patients with Post Traumatic Stress Syndrome, patients suffering from Alzheimer's disease, cancer patients, as well as stories of miraculous healings and becoming well again which made me re-examine my position of observer, interpreter and analyst. Through the process of understanding and interpreting sensitive cultural practices, I explore whether anthropologists are uniquely placed to actively protect the rights of people to whom they owe their science.

Panel W014
From medical pluralism to therapeutic plurality: medical anthropology and the politics of diversity, knowledge, and experience from multiple perspectives