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Volume 15

Epistemologies of Healing

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Healing Roots

Anthropology in Life and Medicine

Julie Laplante

302 pages, 25 illus., bibliog., index

ISBN  978-1-78238-554-7 $95.00/£67.00 Hb Published (February 2015)

eISBN 978-1-78238-555-4 eBook

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Healing Roots should be compulsory reading for students of pharmacology in Africa. That statement summarizes the wealth of information and in-depth analysis contained in a book that set out to, and succeeded in articulating the dissonance that exists in attempts to validate indigenous medicine using completely alien and super-imposed standards.” · African Studies Quarterly

“This book represents an interesting addition to the emerging series of articles and books dedicated to the study of the interactions between Western and African systems of knowledge…[It] is very provocative and will no doubt provoke many intellectual debates.”  ·  Gilles Bibeau, Université de Montréal


Umhlonyane, also known as Artemisia afra, is one of the oldest and best-documented indigenous medicines in South Africa. This bush, which grows wild throughout the sub-Saharan region, smells and tastes like “medicine,” thus easily making its way into people’s lives and becoming the choice of everyday healing for Xhosa healer-diviners and Rastafarian herbalists. This “natural” remedy has recently sparked curiosity as scientists search for new molecules against a tuberculosis pandemic while hoping to recognize indigenous medicine. Laplante follows umhlonyane on its trails and trials of becoming a biopharmaceutical — from the “open air” to controlled environments — learning from the plant and from the people who use it with hopes in healing.

Julie Laplante is Associate Professor of Anthropology in the School of Sociological and Anthropological Studies at the University of Ottawa. Senior research fellow at the Max Planck Institute für etnologische forschung (2006-2010), she has published in numerous journals and is the author of Pouvoir Guérir. Médecines autochtones et humanitaires (Power/Ability to Heal. Indigenous and humanitarian medicine).


Subject: Medical Anthropology
Area: Africa



Introduction: Tracing the Preclinical Trial of an Indigenous Plant

Chapter 1. Knowing Umhlonyane/Artemisia afra
Chapter 2. Engaging in Medicine
Chapter 3. Tracing Medicine – Wayfaring
Chapter 4. Imagining Indigeneity
Chapter 5. Healing the Nation
Chapter 6. Dreams, Ancestors and Sound Healing
Chapter 7. Weaving Molecules in Life

Conclusion: Imagining the Clinical Trial


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