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Re: Ma: Maya medicine

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  • Albert Cohn
    ... I would like to first make it clear that my comments (which i still hold to be valid) were not directed at any one culture. My objection to not using the
    Message 1 of 11 , Apr 1, 1997
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      Linda Schele wrote:
      >
      > >
      > >HOWEVER, and this is where I very seriously part company with your
      > >position, I do not consider it OK for us as anthropologists to use such
      > >terms. There is a difference between members of a group referring to
      > >their own that way, and our use of such terms, because if we use them
      > >it reflects ethnocentric bias, and apart from all else, it is not proper
      > >scientific terminology.
      >
      > I would like to second this opinion and add a little of my own experience.
      > Many Maya use the words brujo and brujeria when they use Spanish because
      > that has become the custom. However, they do not call their religious
      > practitioners by equivalent names in their own languages. Both the Spanish
      > and modern Ladino have classified native medicine as brujeria in contrast to
      > Christian practices as a deliberate social strategy. This is not an issue of
      > modern medicine versus traditional medicine, but rather one of privileging
      > the European tradition and devaluing those of the Maya.
      >
      > Maya leaders have asked us not to use the words brujo and brujeria to refer
      > to their religious practices in any context. I agree--if and until we are
      > willing to call modern medicine and science as witchcraft, we should not use
      > it to classify the medicine of the Maya. It is a matter of respect.
      >
      > Linda Schele
      >
      > Linda Schele
      > Schele@...
      I would like to first make it clear that my comments (which i still hold
      to be valid) were not directed at any one culture. My objection to not
      using the term witchdoctor was made because of the sweeping way that the
      term was discounted in the beginning. I cannot say what is correct or
      not correct in the use of the term in mesoamerican cultures: i haven't
      lived with any of them. I can say, with certainty, for the southern
      african tribal cultures that witchdoctor (as is witchcraft) is a valid
      term. In Zulu, from which Siswati derives (swazi), there are two words
      which are as old as the lang. itself: Inyanga and Sangoma. Inyanga, to
      any Zulu speaker, will imply one with healing powers (usa. with the help
      of the ancestors), and Sangoma will imply one with the power to cast and
      remove spells.

      Cultural antropologist find it important to see, understand, and
      interpret culture from the perspective of the culture under study. The
      lang. of a culture tells as much, if not more, than any visual and
      intellectual observations. I do not believe you can make such a sweeping
      statement as "witchdoctor is inappropriate" to use in all circumstances.
      Maybe it is inappropriate in the Maya (mesoamerican) culture. If this is
      true, it is not a universal truth. Saying so, in my opinion, is rather
      euro-centric.

      a.c.
    • Albert Cohn
      ... Just wondering...what exactly is the proper scientific terminology for witchdoctor?
      Message 2 of 11 , Apr 1, 1997
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        Ruth Gubler wrote:
        >
        > Even if Swazi healers use the term witch doctor themselves, and even if
        > early English anthropologists working in Africa used the term and it is
        > common in the literature, this does not obviate the fact that it is a
        > "loaded", i.e. ethnocentric term, with a Western connotation and way of
        > perceiving "the other". To pursue the matter further, one would have to
        > know whether an equivalent term exists in the Swazi language and how far
        > back it can be traced.
        > In Yucatan, where I work with curanderos, they themselves also refer to
        > practitioners "of the evil arts" , i.e. "magia negra" as "brujos" or
        > "magiqueros" but those are Spanish terms. So I would suggest that in an
        > analogous way the Swazi may have taken over the term witch doctor.
        >
        > HOWEVER, and this is where I very seriously part company with your
        > position, I do not consider it OK for us as anthropologists to use such
        > terms. There is a difference between members of a group referring to
        > their own that way, and our use of such terms, because if we use them
        > it reflects ethnocentric bias, and apart from all else, it is not proper
        > scientific terminology. So while you condone it by saying that it has a
        > unique meaning of its own, I can only counter that yes, it does, but that
        > its uniqueness also reflects an unsavory ethnocentric bias.
        >
        > Finally, the article reported on refers to actual physical ailments,
        > headache or migraine, epilepsy and madness, for which herbal remedies
        > are used - so we are not within the domain of magical infliction of
        > illness. - Ruth Gubler
        > rgubler@...
        >
        > On Sun, 30 Mar 1997, Albert Cohn wrote:
        >
        > > Albert Cohn wrote:
        > > >
        > > > WF McGee wrote:
        > > > >
        > > > > i am certainly not a knee jerk on political correctness but ruth
        > > > > gruber's comment that one ought to avoid terms as "witch doctor"is
        > > > > most certainly proper.
        > > > >
        > > > > WFM
        > >
        > > a.cohn wrote
        > > > I have to take exception to the comment that "witch doctor" is not an
        > > > appro. term. It is indeed is. There is a defined difference between a
        > > > traditional healer and a witch doctor.
        > > >
        > > > I can not speak for traditional cultures as a whole, but i can speak
        > > > with emperically for southern african trad. cultures, and more
        > > > specifically the Swazi culture. Swazi healers, themselve, use the term
        > > > "witch doctor." To the swazi (healers and laymen) a healer is someone
        > > > who gets a calling from the ancestors to become a healer. As such, they
        > > > practice the curative arts (85% of black africans get their primary
        > > > health care from these healers). A witch doctor is something totally
        > > > different. Anyone can be a witch doctor. All you have to do is get
        > > > another witch doctor to teach you the craft. In most cultures (african),
        > > > it is understood that one who practices witch doctory has the power to
        > > > practice toward good or bad ends. A healer, on the other hand, practices
        > > > healing... solely towards good ends.
        > > >
        > > > I think it is an issue of political correctness on our part, as students
        > > > of western anthro., to discount the use of "witch doctor" as an
        > > > appropriate term. I have no problem with the term. It has a unique
        > > > meaning of its own.
        > > >
        > > > acohn
        > >
        Just wondering...what exactly is the proper scientific terminology for
        witchdoctor?
      • Albert Cohn
        Subject: witch doctors Many cultures have part-time specialists who do not make use of trance but who diagnose and cure disease, find lost objects, foretell
        Message 3 of 11 , Apr 1, 1997
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          Subject:
          witch doctors


          "Many cultures have part-time specialists who do not make use of trance
          but who diagnose and cure disease, find lost objects, foretell the
          future, and confer immunity in war and success in love. Such persons
          MAY be referred to as magicians, seers, sorcerers, WITCH
          DOCTORS, medicine men and curers."

          A little known anthropologist by the name of Marvin Harris in his book
          "Cultural Anthropology" second edition.
        • joseph pigott
          ... Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not understand each other.
          Message 4 of 11 , Apr 1, 1997
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            Ruth Gubler wrote:
            >
            >
            >
            > HOWEVER, and this is where I very seriously part company with your
            > position, I do not consider it OK for us as anthropologists to use such
            > terms. There is a difference between members of a group referring to
            > their own that way, and our use of such terms, because if we use them
            > it reflects ethnocentric bias, and apart from all else, it is not proper
            > scientific terminology. So while you condone it by saying that it has a
            > unique meaning of its own, I can only counter that yes, it does, but that
            > its uniqueness also reflects an unsavory ethnocentric bias.
            >
            >
            "Come, let us go down and confuse their language so they will not
            understand each
            other."
          • Ruth Gubler
            Obviously I have not been able to make any inroads in regard to your position re: witchdoctors, and we could probably argue until we were both blue in the face
            Message 5 of 11 , Apr 1, 1997
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              Obviously I have not been able to make any inroads in regard to your
              position re:"witchdoctors, and we could probably argue until we were both
              blue in the face without changing each other's mind - but that's all
              right; we all have the privilege of opinions. Nonetheless, I still feel
              that the term is a left-over from Colonial times, much like the term "brujo".

              On another issue: I have found that curers can not be so categorically
              divided into two groups: that is to say, into "good healers" vs. "bad" -
              those whom you would categorize as "witchdoctors", i.e. the casters of
              spells, intrusive objects, illness, etc.

              While admittedly a "good healer" follows a calling that reflects in a
              positive role in his community and the curing of illness, both physi-
              cal and psychological, there is a "grey area" which is not so well-
              defined. In curing his patient, he is frequently called upon to
              "return" an illness to its origin, that is to say, he must send it back
              to the person or shaman who has caused his patient to fall ill. In
              doing so, his role is positive, i.e. "good" insofar as his patient is
              concerned, but viewed from the other end, the person to whom the ill-
              ness has been returned, must surely view him under a negative or "evil"
              aspect. This is just a simple example; there are other, more complex
              ones as well. I just want to point out that we can not categorize
              healers exclusively in an either-or manner. Ruth Gubler


              Ruth Gubler
              rgubler@...


              On Sun, 30 Mar 1997, Albert Cohn wrote:

              > Albert Cohn wrote:
              > >
              > > WF McGee wrote:
              > > >
              > > > i am certainly not a knee jerk on political correctness but ruth
              > > > gruber's comment that one ought to avoid terms as "witch doctor"is
              > > > most certainly proper.
              > > >
              > > > WFM
              >
              > a.cohn wrote
              > > I have to take exception to the comment that "witch doctor" is not an
              > > appro. term. It is indeed is. There is a defined difference between a
              > > traditional healer and a witch doctor.
              > >
              > > I can not speak for traditional cultures as a whole, but i can speak
              > > with emperically for southern african trad. cultures, and more
              > > specifically the Swazi culture. Swazi healers, themselve, use the term
              > > "witch doctor." To the swazi (healers and laymen) a healer is someone
              > > who gets a calling from the ancestors to become a healer. As such, they
              > > practice the curative arts (85% of black africans get their primary
              > > health care from these healers). A witch doctor is something totally
              > > different. Anyone can be a witch doctor. All you have to do is get
              > > another witch doctor to teach you the craft. In most cultures (african),
              > > it is understood that one who practices witch doctory has the power to
              > > practice toward good or bad ends. A healer, on the other hand, practices
              > > healing... solely towards good ends.
              > >
              > > I think it is an issue of political correctness on our part, as students
              > > of western anthro., to discount the use of "witch doctor" as an
              > > appropriate term. I have no problem with the term. It has a unique
              > > meaning of its own.
              > >
              > > acohn
              >
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