Trembling narratives: In between medical classifications and indigenous knowledge explanations
Journal article, Peer reviewed
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Original versionHansen C. Trembling narratives: In between medical classifications and indigenous knowledge explanations . African Journal of Disability. 2020
The narratives presented in this article were collected during two periods of fieldwork in postapartheid South Africa. The narrators were people I have known for some time. They experience problems with convulsions, spasticity and tremors and have sought various forms of protection, healing and treatment. To me, their stories have sparked an interest in the way that diseases and health problems are being classified and understood, and how the various interpretations influence people’s perception of afflictions and the afflicted, which in turn has an impact on the social standing of the people concerned and their relationships with other people. My work is based on a sociocultural understanding of afflictions and the afflicted. In my view, such perceptions are rooted in historic, political and social processes that are reflected in individuals and their bodies. In this context, the body becomes an existential foundation for culture and subjectivity (Csordas, 1994), and afflictions such as convulsions and spasticity are not reduced to mere physiological and biological processes. Based on how local practices encompass healing and indigenous knowledge system create an alternative to explanation within biomedical knowledge system. I discuss social constructs that shape perceptions of person and self, and which are also key to how people with specific health problems may appear in society.