Accepted Paper:

Traditional and complementary medicines in Istria: intertwining or paralleling?  

Author:

Uršula Lipovec Čebron (University of Ljubljana)

Paper short abstract:

The paper explores the characteristics of traditional Istrian medicine as it is understood and practiced by traditional healers on one hand, and the theory and practices of complementary therapists on the other. The analysis of their understanding of the body, categorization of illnesses, etiological concepts and treatment methods enables a further examination of relations between these two medical systems and helps establishing whether there is continuity between them or not.

Paper long abstract:

The paper is based on a two-year ethnographic research conducted among traditional healers and complementary therapists in Istrian Peninsula, their patients and users, inhabitants of different Istrian localities, both rural and urban.

The paper explores the theory and practices of traditional healers and complementary therapists through their understanding of the body, categorization of illnesses, etiological concepts and treatment methods. This enables a further examination of relations between these two medical systems and helps establishing whether there is continuity, a close encounter between the two, or whether no closer link exists but they rather operate in parallel.

The analysis will be focused on the conceptualization of the body which seems of essential importance for both medical systems in the determination of the rest of their aspects: i.e. the understanding of the causes of illnesses, their categorization and treatment. The understanding of the body by traditional healers is tagged as the "collective-metaphysical" conception of body, and by complementary therapists as the "individual-metaphysical".

Special attention is given to questions of etiology, which lead to the conclusion that in the context of Istrian traditional medicine mostly the so called external causes of illness are applicable, and commonly represented by "ideology" of the curse and the related concepts of collective and individual štriga (a type of witch). The analysis of the etiological concepts of complementary therapists shows the recurrent involvement of the idea of internal causes of illness, whereby illness is perceived mostly as a consequence of different kinds of imbalances, for which the persons themselves are responsible. It is also noted that recently complementary therapists often tend to interpret illness through the "ideology" of the curse, and by doing so draw closer to traditional medicines and their external conception of causes of illness. In relation to this, the reasons for the occurrence of this significant "epistemological shift" of complementary medicines are also analyzed.

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