Kurdish Women and Traditional Healing in the Diyarbakır Province: Health, Medical Pluralism and Violence.
Date: 15 August 2017
University of Exeter
PhD in Kurdish Studies
This doctoral study, entitled Kurdish Women and Traditional Healing in the Diyarbakır Province: Health, Medical Pluralism and Violence, presents an ethnographic study of Kurdish women’s attitudes towards traditional healing in the Diyarbakır province of Turkey. The thesis examines how the boundaries between biomedicine and traditional ...
This doctoral study, entitled Kurdish Women and Traditional Healing in the Diyarbakır Province: Health, Medical Pluralism and Violence, presents an ethnographic study of Kurdish women’s attitudes towards traditional healing in the Diyarbakır province of Turkey. The thesis examines how the boundaries between biomedicine and traditional medicine are variously drawn in the region, with the overall objective of demonstrating that in their engagement with traditional healing, women encourage and mobilise a “medical pluralism” perspective on health which provides them with a strategy to overcome social divisiveness in a context of violence and conflict. The general framework of this study is laid out in the Introduction (chapter I), while chapter II assesses the methodology used in the research. The literature review in chapter II also offers an opportunity to discuss existing studies of Turkey’s health care system, alongside those that examine health issues surrounding Kurdish women (and women in general), and female traditional healers in the Middle East and North Africa. Following the methodological, conceptual and academic contextualisation of the thesis, Chapters III examines how discourses on biomedicine and traditional medicine are variously articulated and negotiated in the province. It offers an ethnographic insight into the vision of four professional actors in the healthcare sector who have played, at the time of this research, an important social role in the life and health environment of the Diyarbakır province. Chapter IV then shifts the ethnographic focus onto women’s practices, tracing an entire day of therapeutic activities by the female healer of the gund, which is a village organised under the ‘village guard system’ in the Diyarbakır province. The overall objective of this chapter is to develop the research theme of the thesis further, revealing that the women in question have adopted a holistic attitude to engagement with traditional healing, so challenging some of the modernist assumptions underpinning biomedical institutions. Chapter V then continues this ethnographic inquiry by examining the Sufi practices of zikr (dhikr) in the gund. Conventionally understood as a mystical and religious practice, zikr is presented here as a therapeutic and experiential social space enabling women to reconfigure community as the intersubjective space of a being-in-common. The concluding chapter offers an opportunity to reprise the main hypothesis and findings in the thesis, highlighting the principal contributions to research. My conviction is that, while helping to reframe discussions of biomedicine and traditional healing and reassessing, more generally, the complex relation between tradition and modernity in the field of Medical Anthropology, this thesis sheds new light on women’s healthcare choices in the contexts of political contestation and conflict. Overall, by contributing in turn to Gender Studies, Politics and Kurdish Studies, the research presented here ultimately serves to illuminate the various performative modes through which Kurdish female bodies are represented in their fundamental association with ideas and practices of health.
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