Social Science Baha
Official

Missions and Medicine in Nepal: Some Anthropological Reflections

09 August 2004

Ian Harper
on
Missions and Medicine in Nepal: Some Anthropological Reflections

Nepal has a very wide range of practitioners dealing in ‘health’, including those practicing in medicine and Ayurveda, as well as mediums and shamans. As a medical anthropologist, one of my particular interests is in the relationships between these healers within broader social and political fields. In this lecture, I shall present aspects of research done into these relations in the district of Palpa in 1998 – 2000. Particularly, I shall focus on the presence of the very popular and busy United Mission to Nepal (UMN) hospital in Tansen, as this has had a significant impact on how health is understood and related to in the area. To begin to appreciate this impact locally, and more broadly, I will focus on a number of issues. I will start with how the hospital was perceived locally, and how the early missionaries were particularly fondly remembered. We will also focus on aspects of written accounts of the early days around the setting up of the hospital in the 1950s. This will lead us to touch on bird watching, the links between this and the medical enterprise as a process of scientific perception, and to explore the relations between medicine and broader developmental strategies. Finally, I shall attempt to interpret how this popular mission hospital [and its associated biomedical efficacy] has also, consequently, become linked by many to an ideological perception of ‘foreignness’.

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Ian Harper is a medical anthropologist based at the University of Edinburgh. He has both worked as a doctor in Nepal and researched into health-related issues as an anthropologist.