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Contested Sites: Aboriginal Health And Healers Engaging Western Medicine

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Chapter Summary

Despite many predictions that traditionalist healing practice would cease, many Aboriginal peoples continue to engage a world of health and sickness very different from that understood by western medical health care. This paper draws on recent research amongst people of the south-east Kimberley desert region as they describe what it means to be well and sick. As they describe the work of their traditionalist healers (maparn) they reveal important cultural values that link the physical with the spiritual, the personal with the social. These cultural values impact on the human and social body as people engage in historical, generational and contemporary contexts. The paper discusses an extensive relationship that the author shared with desert people over more than three decades, and with health research he conducted with them between 2001 and 2004.

Keywords: aboriginal peoples; health and sickness; traditionalist healers; western medicine



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