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Problematic Linear Development Discourse in Practice: Rationality of Traditional Healing Systems Amidst Pluralism of Health Choices in Nepal

Author Divya RANA
Director of thesis Prof. V.K. Nguyen
Co-director of thesis
Summary of thesis

The dissertation explores the ways in which health and illnesses are understood and experienced by people in Nepal, through a multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in the southern Lumbini region. Health choices and healing practices in contemporary Nepal offer a diverse set of options ranging from doctors, nurses, traditional birth attendants, acupuncturists, Tibetan healers, Ayurvedic practitioners and herbal doctors to spiritual healers, shamans, sokhas, lamas, guruwas, dhamis and jhakris. Medical anthropological analysis shows that the modern health care discourse in Nepal emphasizes on the medically pluralistic nature of health choices of people as a norm rather than an exception. However, as Western style biomedicine is central to Nepali people’s construction of the meaning of development (bikas), the development discourse of contemporary Nepal perceives traditional healing practices as hinderance to development and emphasizes on the need for rural villages in Nepal to adopt ‘modern’ health care. This paper identifies this linear development discourse in practice as problematic and the polarized understanding of the rural-urban dichotomy as limiting and argues that there is a need for health policymakers as well as the development workers, healthcare planners and implementers at international and national levels to understand the rationality of tradition healing rituals, practices and systems. The understanding of traditional healing systems as serving a rational function in societies would allow these practices to be perceived not as a hinderance to but rather as a crucial component of development, reshaping the current, flawed discourse and allowing for context sensitive and local perspective centered approach to development.

Status finished
Administrative delay for the defence