Stephen many places in Africa the Europeans fighting

Stephen White

Midterm SOC400

            Health
and healing varied in multiple ways from the pre-colonial to the colonial
period in Africa. Africa was known for traditional healers and witchcraft.
While much of Africa was colonized during the scramble for Africa. The European
powers were bringing western medicine over to Africa. In many places in Africa
the Europeans fighting for control would ban the use of traditional African
medicine.  The Europeans came to Africa
trying to colonize and spread western medicine. Europeans do not believe in
traditional African medicine. They did not accept the traditional medicine
because that would mean that the Africans were in fact not inferior.

            Pre-colonial
Africa health and healing was controlled by the traditional healers. In Africa,
not all illness is attributed to the witches or spirits contrary to what is
believed in the west. They were aware of several causes of illness and diseases
long before western medicine. The traditional healers have an extensive
pharmacopeia deriving from barks, roots, leaves, saps, and many other natural
resources. In pre-colonial Africa, most of the health problems were taken care
of and handled in the household by the traditional healer.  The spirit causation was a large part of the
traditional medical system.  In
traditional Africa spirits are known to cause certain kinds of illness to
individuals, families, and communities. The people would consult a doctor who
would use their own spirits or mechanical devices when the cause of the illness
was unknown. The doctors would sometimes diagnose the problem as a neglect of
ancestral spirits. The person would have to go to specific sites and offer
gifts to the spirits.  Sorcery was also a
large part of pre-colonial Africa. Sorcery involves antisocial or nefarious acts;
sorcery is suspected when people die suddenly or have unexplainable illnesses.
There is another type of traditional health is public taboos, when catastrophic
events happened the authorities would stop people from doing certain day to day
activities. The evidence of these cases is drawn from the oral traditions and
archaeological findings and linguistics and ethnographic data. The traditional
healers had a more personal connection with the people they treated and helped.

            When
the British came to Africa in pursuit of colonization they brought western
medicine with them. Colonial rule was established through a series of conquest
that began in the 19th century on in the 20th century,
these journeys took place in east-central Africa by the British. They began to
take control from the kings and chiefs of the villages. The western scientific
medicine known as biomedicine had become popular for its vaccinations
laboratory testing and high tech gadgets. It had the image of advanced medical
care. “They import technology from the West in the form of hospitals and
pharmaceutical products, primarily for use by the elites.”(Waite, therapeutic
traditions of Africa).The Europeans had this idea that they were colonizing
Africa and in a way, being the savior. The term and concept “public health” is
generally associated with biomedicine and concerned with vaccinations,
quarantining, and regulations to ensure sanitation and control environmental
hazards ” (Zulu). This is where sanitary segregation is practiced. “It has
been proved that the segregation of Europeans from natives is one of the most
efficient means of protection against disease and endemic amongst native
races.”(Curtin, Colonial tropical Africa). 
While quinine was becoming very big in treating and preventing of
malaria in German west Africa they practiced the sanitary segregation. The
colonial state started spending resources on the construction of new segregated
cities all based on the false ideas of spreading disease. they also found that
malaria mainly affected the youth of Africa from ages five and younger. The new
cities were not any healthier or cleaner and the colonial state was essentially
driven by nationalism and racism. They believed that mosquitos were spreading
malaria. Also, this was a way of keeping those who govern away from the
governed. this is a way of showing that most of the practices instituted by the
Europeans was to benefit themselves and not the native African people. By the
end of the 1800’s Robert Koch and Louis Pasteur created the “Germ theory”
between the two of them they found out that different bacteria were responsible
for different diseases, and that diseases weren’t rising up from the soil. Also,
the two created Prophylactic quinine to prevent and cure malaria. This lead to
the pushing of widespread quininization, but it was found to be ineffective
causing many villages to be displaced by Europeans. The colonial’s idea of
medicine became much less personal and became more of a job. For example,
giving birth with traditional medicine the entire village or whoever was around
helped with the birth of the child, with western medicine it was controlled by
a doctor. “The colonizing of birth was not only a transfer of authority from
women to doctors, it was also a positivist unveiling of the Muslim female body,
a rendering visible, readable, and quantifiable,” it goes on to say, “the SHP
attempted to redefine birth from mother’s sacred act to doctor’s medical
procedure.” (Amster, 2013). This necessarily wasn’t a bad thing because with
traditional medicine the fatality birth rate was much higher than in western
medicine. As the new medical institutions were being built the old African ones
were being surpassed. The British were firm believers that the witchcraft and
sorcery were based on nonsense.

            “In Africa around 80% of people
use traditional medical systems for much or all of their health care. It is
impossible to summarize the diversity of traditions used by the many cultures.
Local traditions have grown and changed over thousands of years in response to
culture, religion and migration.”(science museum Brought to life). This shows
that even after colonialize brought many new hospitals and western medicine but
it was still only accessible to the elites and the Europeans and not so much
the native African villages. The colonials brought over western medicine as a
way of being superior to the natives. Even though the African villages along
with their traditional healers had many methods to heal illness that did work
for the villagers. The Europeans were susceptible to many of the diseases and
illness that the Africans were immune too. The Europeans did not believe in any
of the medicines or treatments that the traditional healers practice. The two
different views on medicine fused in a way. they learned how to co-exist. While
most of Africa still uses their traditional medicine because the western
medicine and hospitals are only located in the few major cities and while
transportation limits many native Africans the Europeans flourish with proper
health care.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Citation

 

 

 Amster, E. J.
(2013). Medicine and the Saints: Science, Islam,
and the Colonial Encounter in Morocco, 1877-1956.
Austin, TX: University of Texas Press.

 

Curtin, P. D. (1985). Medical Knowledge and Urban Planning in
Tropical Africa. The American
Historical Review,90(3), 594-613. doi:10.1086/ahr/90.3.594

 

 

Langwick,
S. A. (n.d.). Bodies, Politics, And African Healing. Indiana University Press. Retrieved from https://farmingdale.open.suny.edu/webapps/blackboard/execute/displayLearningUnit?course_id=_16374_1&content_id=_461874_1&framesetWrapped=true.

93917/traditional%20healers%20and%20public%20health%20in%20precolonial%20east-central%20africa-1.pdf.

 

G M Waite, A
history of traditional medicine and health care in pre-colonial East-Central
Africa (New York: E. Mellen Press, c1992)

 

“Science Museum. Brought to Life: Exploring the History of
Medicine.” African medical traditions,
broughttolife.sciencemuseum.org.uk/broughttolife/techniques/africanmedtrad.

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