||When considering the local, indigenous, “traditional” healing practices of non-Western
societies, Euro-Americans often ask whether or not they are efficacious – “do they
work?” Posed from a biomedical paradigm, the concept of work adheres to a narrow definition.
This thesis seeks to expand constrained prevailing views of medical efficacy, challenging
conception of the “work” medical systems perform. Rooted in ethnographic fieldwork
conducted in the village of Kuwdé, Northern Togo, I apply the question of work to
the Kabre local medical system. I consider how the purposeful distribution of remedies
among houses in Kuwdé orients the individual body to community, clan, and history
through health and disease. I draw upon theories of embodiment, relationality, and
power to show that a medical system does social, relational, and political work as
well as physiological work. In doing so, I aim to move from a conception of health
solely as biological-pathway-to-biological-impact, to situating health in its social
and relational dimensions. I then engage with the field of global health, arguing
that an expanded notion of efficacy and work may, in turn, improve the delivery of
biomedical care. It is my hope that this project cultivates awareness of how definitions
of efficacy frame the lived experience and practice of medicine.