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Accepted Paper:

Epistemologies of chronic pain: Understanding the unseen in a Tamang village in Nepal  

Author:

Paula Bronson (UCL)

Paper short abstract:

This paper recounts my recent fieldwork experiences of the everyday unseen worlds in a Tamang village in Nepal. I reflect on my acceptance of these spaces in my interactions with the local traditional healers and those they help with long term pain.

Paper long abstract:

I aim to recall preliminary reflections through a short ethnographic recounting during my recent doctoral fieldwork in rural Nepal in a small Tamang community . The study focused on local coping and knowledge surrounding chronic pain. As everyday practice, the villagers first sought the advice of traditional healers. This led to time spent with the local shamans ( Jhangkri , Nepali), (Bompo, Tamang). In my introduction to their worlds, I saw a widespread acceptance of "we can't see" (Amrang Ba, Tamang) spirits which continually caused disturbances of various kinds . For the Tamang, these were real and tangible spaces where the sources of physical pain and psychological distress prevailed. A Bompo would enact a performance, involving animal sacrifice, to chase away the spirit who had stolen the life force known as Hungsa (Tamang). Within the framework of person-centered ethnography , I aim to focus on experiences of the ill person within their everyday lived world. During the Yalmo Kyonda (Tamang) the Bompo's embodied demonstration is of his own internal power as directed by his ancestor, his internal guru, and supplemented by divine power. As described by Holmberg ( 2006), it is by witnessing this performance that the ill person may gain resilience and allow the life force to re-enter. In the field, I witnessed a pragmatic approach to the unseen in the lived experience of this farming community, affecting all aspects of their worlds. In this paper I will focus on my acceptance of these invisible spaces.

Panel P115b
Other Worlds, Other Bodies?: Ethnography, Experience and Epistemological Embodiment