The Historical Entanglement with Power and Interest: Western Medicine Versus African Medicine.

Monday, 16 July 2018: 18:06
Oral Presentation
Alex ASAKITIKPI, Monash University South Africa, South Africa
Modern discourses and usage of the terms “Western medicine” and “African medicine” raise epistemological focus on the “how” and “whose” knowledge, and not solely on the functions of these forms of knowledge and practice. Implicit in discussions of indigenous knowledge, with accounts of the historical variability of structures of thought and action, is the ontological predicate of a difference in identity; the entanglement with power and interest, of rational subjects as embodied and practically engaged in their life worlds, traditions and worldviews. Hence, African medicine stands as alternative to Western medicine. The idea that Western medicine involves the production of knowledge that has as its components, logic, rationality, and replicability and, therefore, has a universal applicability, in itself, is a hegemonic narrative, which taints other medical systems as inferior to it. To entrench this hegemonic power relations, African medicine is portrayed as revolving around the issue of identity and the culture on which it is predicated. In this paper, we contend against the common assumptions that every paradigm of African indigenous knowledge, from a non-African ontology and perspective, has as its elements impreciseness, vagueness, contingency, and lack of synthesis and reflexivity. Thus, from an African cosmological stand point, we argue that African medical system is grounded in the theory of embeddedness; the co-existence of the real and the illusion; the stable and the unstable, the spiritual and the physical, separate at one level of awareness but enmeshed at another level of opacity. As a preliminary submission, we contend that there are multiple realities and the real and the unreal are a matter of degrees and methods of inquiries. This is what makes Western and African medicines distinctively different: it is in the arena of the methods of inquiry, knowing, and practice.