Out of Africa

In the last blog ‘Concluding Thoughts’, (30 July 2018), I sought to summarise the achievements of MEDICINE project in its first two years to date, having completed two of the three main phases of the project: the development of a questionnaire about the survival of traditional Andean cosmologies and beliefs about health and healing, and the following survey of the three indigenous communities of Salasaka, Zuleta and Ugsha.

Time has moved fast since then. I returned to the Department of Archaeology, University of York by October to commence the third and final year of project, which aimed to draw together the survey findings and, in liaison with global organisations dealing with migrant, refugee, First Nations and Aboriginal issues, to start developing health beliefs concepts and transferable models to inform policy and practitioners ‘tools’ (https://www.andeanmedicine.net/blog/moving-ahead-final-goals-1532718988).

In December I attended a conference in Nigeria, at the University of Nigeria at Nsukka as an invited delegate, to present a paper on the conference theme “Knowledge Loss, Bondage and Regrets in Post Contact Societies”,
AfriScoN 2018
organised by John Kelechi Ugwuanyi and Dr Chidi Ugwu and the paper I presented “How we lost ourselves. Nature of being and constructions of self in autochthonous Andean society under the imposition of Spanish colonialism in the Americas” Paper presented to the First AfriScoN Conference at the University of Nigeria, Nsukka, 9-12 December, 2018 aimed to give an alternative view of the experience of the impact of colonial European epistemologies and ontologies from the Amerindian perspective. This was the first time I had ever been to Africa, and I found the experience an immensely enriching one. I was able to visit traditional Igbo communities there and see how similar in many ways, the kinds of cosmologies: beliefs about the world and nature – are to indigenous Andean ones. It was fascinating to see how the use of the sacred item ‘Cola’ nut in West Africa is in many ways so similar to the way that Coca leaf is used (or until recently was used) in many traditional indigenous communities in the Andes. Both are chewed as a mild stimulant which offers protection to some degree against pain and hunger, and both form a core aspect in ritual social interactions between people in their societies.
Dunoka village, Otobo Dunoka of Lejja town

It was also very instructive to visit a traditional Igbo community in Useh, Akku town and see a local shaman and diviner practicing his craft of foretelling. This is another practice which is commonplace in many traditional indigenous communities around the world, and which is certainly also found in the Andes, although the actual means for foretelling differ.
Useh, Akku


Useh village, Akku

By the start of the New Year I had progressed the quantitative analysis of the survey generating a lot of new statistical information about how indigenous Andeans conceptualise their identity, the survival of ancestral beliefs about the world, nature and health and healing and the impact of modern medicine. In the last few days, a new article disseminating further findings of this study: “Being Runa. Indigenous Identity and Andean heritage in Contemporary South America” co-authored by me - Elizabeth Currie - with John Schofield and Diego Quiroga, has been submitted to the Journal of the Royal Anthropological Institute. This represents a greatly expanded, developed version of the paper that I will be presenting (with John Schofield as co-author) at the 84th Annual Meeting of the Society for American Archaeology in Albuquerque, USA in April.
SAA Albuquerque

Following this, work will turn to advancing the final stages of the work, by contacting more Refugee and Migrant organisations and continuing work with the Escuela de Salud Pública in Granada, Spain: http://www.easp.es

About this blog entry

This blog entry was posted on Saturday 2nd March 2019.
elizabeth.currie@york.ac.uk's picture
Dr Elizabeth Currie

Dr Elizabeth Currie is a Marie Sklodowska-Curie Experienced Researcher and Global Fellow at the Department of Archaeology, and Senior Visiting Research Fellow at the Department of Health Sciences, University of York.

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