Bodies, Politics, and African Healing

Bodies, Politics, and African Healing

The Matter of Maladies in Tanzania
Stacey A. Langwick
Distribution: Global
Publication date: 06/23/2011
Format: Paperback 24 b&w illus., 2 maps
ISBN: 978-0-253-22245-9
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This subtle and powerful ethnography examines African healing and its relationship to medical science. Stacey A. Langwick investigates the practices of healers in Tanzania who confront the most intractable illnesses in the region, including AIDS and malaria. She reveals how healers generate new therapies and shape the bodies of their patients as they address devils and parasites, anti-witchcraft medicine, and child immunization. Transcending the dualisms between tradition and science, culture and nature, belief and knowledge, Langwick tells a new story about the materiality of healing and postcolonial politics. This important work bridges postcolonial theory, science, public health, and anthropology.

Author Bio

Stacey A. Langwick is Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Cornell University. She is a contributor to Borders and Healers (IUP, 2006).


“This subtle and powerful ethnography examines African healing and its relationship to medical science while investigating the practices of healers in Tanzania who confront the most intractable illnesses in the region, including AIDS and malaria.”

“Presents in-depth ethnographic information on a timely and relevant topic of long-standing interest, informing practical responses to significant social problems.”
 — Tracy J. Luedke, Northeastern Illinois University

“This book is a tour de force. Grounded in theory derived from anthropology and science and technology studies, Stacey A. Langwick's vibrant account of healing in Tanzania is exemplary of ethnography at its best. Moving beyond the concept of medical pluralism and an oppositional comparison of traditional healing and biomedical practice, Langwick leads her readers into the arena of 'ontological politics' where frictions among local medical experts are laid bare, and disputes about what is 'real' take center stage. Her focus on the production and circulation of therapeutic objects and their intimate association with the multiple ways that bodies come to be objectified and subjectively experienced decenters assumptions about truth and power in the postcolonial era.”
 — Margaret Lock, McGill University

“Compelling and radical . . . stunningly intimate, deeply intellectual, and thoroughly political.”
 — Julie Livingston, Rutgers University

“Bodies, Politics, and African Healing is a bold and imaginative account that deserves to be read not only as an ethnography of medical pluralities in postcolonial Tanzania but also as an exemplary investigation into the field of ontological politics that unsettles deep-seated assumptions about truth and power. It will change the way many anthropologists think and write about medical ontologies in Africa and elsewhere. ”
 — Anthropology and Humanism

“This book contributes to the understanding of traditional medicine in a contemporary African setting. It makes clear the inequalities that shape the space under which healers must operate, and their efforts to work this to their advantage.”
 — Anthropos

“This is an important and convincing reframing not only of the meaning of healing in postcolonial Tanzania, but also of what healing does. Bodies, Politics, and African Healing successfully challenges us to reconsider the very way in which we think about African healing. ”
 — Bulletin of the School of Oriental and African Studies

“Stacey Langwick draws on the insights raised by science technology studies and anthropological–historical analyses to reconsider what health and healing means in the town–district of Newala, situated on the edge of the Makonde Plateau, in southeastern Tanzania. . . She pushes readers to consider seriously how healers bring into material being the often unseen entities from other realms, an important part of their therapeutic practice39.2 May 2012”
 — American Ethnologist

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Table of Contents

A Note on Translation

Prologue: AIDS, Rats, and Soldiers' Belts
1. Orientations

Part 1. A Short Genealogy of Traditional Medicine
2. Witchcraft, Oracles, and Native Medicine
3. Making Tanzanian Traditional Medicine

Part 2. Hailing Traditional Experts
4. Healers and Their Intimate Becomings
5. Traditional Birth Attendants as Institutional Evocations

Part 3. Healing Matters
6. Alternative Materialities
7. Interferences and Inclusions
8. Shifting Existences, or Being and Not-Being

Conclusion: Postcolonial Ontological Politics


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