Cultural Commingling: The Impact of Western Medical Conceptions on Igbo Cultural Understandings of Disease

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Since the beginning of colonialism, people of different cultures have adamantly fought changes that can irreversibly alter cultural identities. Sub-Saharan African societies, specifically, have been victims of aggressive Western indoctrination. Colonialism changed the entire face of societies it touched, including the domain of medicine. Western medicine (biomedicine) and indigenous medicine (culturally and socially specific medicinal practices) have contested with each other for centuries. Western biomedical knowledge has long challenged the ideas and medical understandings of non-Western societies. Each society has its own distinct reaction to these struggles, with many African societies taking an all-or-nothing approach. Some societies embraced the ideas and conceptions of the West, effectively sidelining indigenous values and ideals in the exchange. Other communities, in order to shield themselves from outside influences, refused all permeation of biomedical knowledge and continue to operate according to their native medical traditions though this is progressively rarer. Very few cultures have been able to adapt some of the beliefs, habits and measures of foreigners as well as maintain the systems of their own culture in a collaborative fashion. Igbo people have progressively blended the indigenous and Western medical perspectives to achieve a complex and detailed understanding of disease. This paper is concerned with the relationship between biomedical beliefs and cultural medical knowledge, examining the effect of the former on the latter.





Anigbogu, Uche (2013). Cultural Commingling: The Impact of Western Medical Conceptions on Igbo Cultural Understandings of Disease. Honors thesis, Duke University. Retrieved from

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