Medical Pluralism and Contested Authorities of Knowledge: Asram and the Case of Newborn Illnesses in Ghana.
Abrah, Akua F.
- This thesis focuses on the role of medical pluralism in a domain where both Western biomedical and local knowledge exist, and the implications that this has for the commensurability of both. I do this through an analysis of asram, both a classification and a diagnosis of potentially fatal newborn illnesses. The research was conducted in the Summers of 2010 and 2011 through interviews, group ... read morediscussions, and participant observation in the village of Osiem, in the Eastern Region of Ghana. I examine how the basis of biomedical knowledge reconstructs a person into that which is appropriate to the medical gaze by classifying illness as _ï¿½ï¿½naturally occurring_ï¿½ï¿½. This knowledge is limited to those trained in the biomedical field, and subsequently reduces or excludes the participation of others on the basis of their access, or lack thereof, to this knowledge. I compare biomedical knowledge and practice with an analysis of the concepts of personhood in Akan-speaking communities of Osiem. Here, health and wellbeing are shared responsibilities among every member of society. These responsibilities call for a different type of participation from a mother in response to asram than that found in medical practice at the Hawa Memorial Saviour Hospital. Through an analysis of infant head massaging, I posit that the biomedical and local basis of knowledge occupy different contexts of authority, that of the hospital and that of the home. These contexts of authority provide the means through which mothers can negotiate between local and biomedical practices in regards to their newborns health. This negotiation creates a gradient of knowledge that reveals that asram can be integrated within both the local and biomedical contexts.read less