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POSTPONED Dr Chisomo Kalinga (Edinburgh) - ‘He who is alone is an animal, they who are two are human’: Narrating indigenous philosophies of care and wellbeing in Malawi

Thursday 5 March 2020, 16:00
Baines Wing SR (2.13)

Please note that this event has been postponed due to industrial action. A rescheduled date will be announced in due course.

Abstract: This paper offers a critical inquiry into the role and function of traditional philosophies of care, humanity and community in framing concepts of illness, wellness, treatment, recovery, and treatment for the Malawian patient. Using data from my fieldwork in the 4 regions (north, central, east and south), the discussion offers insight into the narrative expressions of care and how health—personal and communal—is managed and informed by local customs and philosophies.


The point of departure is to avoid the accepted dichotomy of Western individualism versus African communitarianism to frame the debate; the view of this model is outdated especially in reading the context of contemporary African social interactions. Rather, the discussion frames the complex system of traditional beliefs and the responsibilities of care as it intersects with the expectations required of carers, family members and healthcare professionals alike. The overall objective is to look into localised (and gendered) forms of knowledge to better understand how to frame issues of illness and care in a manner that is constructed to support the patient in their construction of health and wellbeing.


Biography: Dr Chisomo Kalinga is a Wellcome-funded medical humanities postdoctoral fellow at the department of Social Anthropology. Her current project examines literary traditions and health narratives in Malawi and its border countries. She is also collaborating with the Art and Global Health Centre Africa and the University of Malawi to launch the first medical humanities network for Malaŵiana studies. She was most recently a postdoctoral fellow at the Institute for Advanced Studies in the Humanities (IASH) at the University of Edinburgh. Her PhD was completed at King’s College London (2014) and offered a comparative study of Malawian and American AIDS fiction. Her research interests are disease (esp. sexuality transmitted infections), biomedicine, traditional healing and witchcraft in African writing and narratives.