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Accepted Paper:

The language of illness in decolonizing global health  
Benjamin Kobina Kwansa (University of Ghana) Deborah Atobrah (University of Ghana)

Paper Short Abstract:

Using an ethnolinguistic analysis of the language of disease, and more specifically of the stomach, this presentation highlights how this language can be conflated with other languages (those of the body, illnesses, pain, anxiety, and hopelessness) influencing the treatment regimen and trajectory.

Paper Abstract:

Health epistemology in Africa has suffered hostility from western medicine, with the former classified as primitive, savage, and based on ‘traditional’ systems. African disease aetiologies have been devoid of scientific insights and epistemological assessment, while colonialist patterns centred on Euro-Western knowledge systems have shaped the language and response to health and illness. The current global health ecosystem, which ‘upholds the supremacy of the white saviour’ by devaluing the epistemic contributions of the so-called traditional or indigenous societies, is thus ill-equipped to fully address the latter’s health challenges, resulting in adverse health outcomes, such as missed diagnosis, wrong treatment, and preventable deaths.

This paper is motivated by the argument that health is critical for human well-being, yet folk dimensions of health knowledge are largely unknown. While it is generally acknowledged that believing, saying, and doing do not always synchronise, synergies nevertheless exist between thought, utterance, and behaviour. Health practitioners often base their decisions on what is said and how it is said.

Using an ethnolinguistic analysis of the language of disease, and more specifically of the stomach, this presentation highlights how this language can be conflated with other languages, such as those of the body, illnesses, pain, anxiety and hopelessness, etc. influencing the treatment regimen and trajectory.

Data for this presentation is drawn from a larger project which comprised the systemic collection and analyses of folk terminologies, coinages, idioms, phrases and lexemes relating to illnesses among three indigenous groups in Ghana: the Ga, Asante, and Kasena, using ethnographic approaches.

Panel P043
Challenging global health through a socio-anthropological lens [Medical Anthropology Europe (MAE)]
  Session 1 Tuesday 23 July, 2024, -