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Negotiating Healing: Understanding the Dynamics amongst Traditional Healers in Kwazulu-Natal as they Engage with Professionalisation

Year: 2005
Author: Devenish, Annie
Unit: ASRU
Journal: Social Dynamics
Volume: 31
Issue: 2
Pages: 243-284
Abstract:

Traditional healing in South Africa is undergoing a process of change. Recognition of the role of traditional healers in health care, especially in the face of the HIV and AIDS pandemic, has led to government calls for professionalisation amongst this group. Traditional healers themselves have been increasingly experiencing a need to professionalise in order to gain more equal treatment in the public health sector and to secure access to state resources and support. In response to these developments, the government passed the Traditional Health Practitioners Act in 2004, which sets the parameters for official recognition of healers under the state. This paper focuses on the dynamics and politics amongst traditional health practitioners as they undergo this process of professionalisation, focusing on the KwaZulu-Natal Traditional Healers Council, the official body responsible for representing healers in the Province. It explores and analyses several key tensions amongst healers within and beyond the Council, showing how these tensions reveal particular power struggles over authority, as well as conflicting perspectives on the control and use of indigenous knowledge and the parameters of 'authentic' and 'appropriate' healing practice. The paper also looks at how the KwaZulu-Natal Council has attempted to mediate these tensions, emphasising that healers will have to find ways to resolve such conflicts in order for them to be able to come together and work on a common vision of professionalism.


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