Meret bi mo yeek: bodily sensations and healing seeking among women from Senegal living in Italy
(European University Institute)
Paper short abstract:
Questioning women's choice to use both the Senegalese traditional healing system and the Italian health care system in order to cope with bodily sensations experienced after childbirth, I will analyze the clinical encounters between cultural and biological interpretations of body symptom.
Paper long abstract:
Meret bi mo yeek is the way in which Senegalese women explain the unpleasant bodily sensations that might occur after childbirth. Based on the findings of the ethnographic research carried out within the Senegalese community who populates the Valdelsa area (Italy), my paper aims to show, in first instance, how bodily sensations experienced by women after childbirth are closely related with social practices and traditional symbolic systems. Secondly, it intends to explore the importance of cultural meanings of body symptoms in healing seeking processes. On the one side, my study investigates how bodily sensations experienced by Senegalese women in Italy rely on both the cultural conceptions of mothering and the social practices related with mothering. As I will try to argue, the symptoms of illness experienced by women after birth are closely linked to two different factors: the symbolic role played by the blood in the traditional interpretation of body functioning and the non-respect of traditional practices usually provided in Senegal. Through the analysis of these two factors, I will show how their bodily sensations cannot be reduced to a matter of physiology. I will suggest that they could be understood as embodied metaphors of their culture, as idioms of their social condition. On the other side, my study explores how and where women seek care. Questioning their choice to use both the Senegalese traditional healing system, via transnational networks, and the Italian health care system, I will analyze the clinical encounters between cultural and biological interpretations of body symptoms.
From bodily sensation to symptoms: consequences for healthcare seeking?