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Essay/Term paper: Modernization of health practices in east central

Essay, term paper, research paper:  Miscellaneous

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The colonization of the western world brought on many changes for the

indigenous people of Africa in every way of life. The Christian missionaries

accomplished much more than just introducing their religion. They also

exposed and converted Africans to western values and social beliefs. Health

care practices were one of the things greatly influenced by the colonization.

In my paper, I am focusing on the practices of the east central region of

Africa, including the regions of Nigeria and (???). This region has common

Bantu-speaking ancestors and commonalties among medicines and practices. The

impact of the western world is easily recognizable because of the radical

differences in thought between the Europeans and the Africans. At the time

of colonization, European health care centered around science and reason.

Most Africans, on the other hand, believed in more abstract, spiritual

explanations for disease and illness. Religious practitioners had a big part

in the healing process. The infiltration of western ideas sparked obvious

changes and many times produced a combination of traditional healing along

with western ideas. There were changes in health care practices even before

the time of colonization and I will also give a brief history of this change

to emphasize the fact that religion and practices are never stagnant.

Brief history of people in East Central region

African healing practices traditionally have strong ties with religion.

They place an emphasis on holistic healing and believe in a mind-body

connection. Divination is one technique that is often used to find the cause

of a particular illness. "Since all human problems such as infertility,

illness, and trouble in hunting, are ascribed to moral conflicts within the

human community, the diviner's task is to disclose acts of immorality which

have provoked the vengeance of the ancestors, and to reveal the destructive

hand of witches and sorcerers." (Ray, 104). A diviner searches a person's

past to find something that may be ascribed to the works of an outside

source. They want to find the source of the problem before simply treating

the symptoms. They also believe that once the source is found, a ceremony

can be performed that may lead to the reversal of its effect. There is a

strong belief that the cause of illness is in the mind, so when the treatment

is foscused there, improvement in physical ailments may be seen. "Because

illness and death are seen to be rooted in immoral acts, the diviner's role

is to help the community in its constant efforts of moral judgment." (Ray

106). The diviner in this case acts as both a religious authority, placing

jugement and finding wrongs, and as a healer, heading ceremonies to drive off

the sickness. The African people of this area combine religion and medicine

to heal the sick and help the dying.

At the time of colonization, the Euopeans were taking an entirely

different approach to medicine. They had placed all of their faith on

science and reason, leaving all spirituality to religion. They completely

separated the two matters, believing the mind and body to be on two different

realms. "In Europe and America, prior to the era of new imperialism,

medicine had become free of a priestcraft and scientific explanations had

completely triumphed over social and supernatural ones." (Waite, 99). They

were coming out of a period ridden with fears of witches and supernatural

threats. New explanations and theories were being formed from mathematics

and advances in science were being made daily. It was the era of reason and

anything other than reason was considered primitive and unworthy of their

highest respect. Belief in the supernatural was in Europe's past, so

naturally they believed they had advanced from that stage. When they arrived

in Africa, they were eager to introduce them to what they believed to be

better, more advanced forms of medicine.

When the Europeans came to Africa, they didn't understand many African

practices. This is true especially in the case of medicine. They went so

far as to ban some of the healing methods because they misunderstood them to

be dangerous. "British passed ordinances throughout their Central African

territories making it a crime merely to accuse anyone of sorcery. As a

result, public control of sorcery came to an end. People now had to make

accusations privately with mediums and diviners." (Waite, 106). They made it

so the traditional practices of Central Africa were considered to be

anti-European, and therefore wrong. They were forced to hide what they were

doing.  

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