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October 2022

Soc Sci Med. 1986 ; 22(1): 75-80.

Biomedical resistance to ethnomedicine in Botswana.

Barbee EL.

The issue of whether and how ethnomedical practitioners can be incorporated into existing biomedical systems in developing countries continues to be debated. Although a number of reasons have been advanced as to the barriers to incorporation, none of these take into account the views of nurses on incorporating ethnomedical practitioners into the biomedical system. Data from Botswana, where the largest group of biomedical personnel are nurses are presented to show the reasons why nurses are opposed to collaboration with the two groups of ethnomedical practitioners, spiritual healers and traditional healers. Because they are socialized to two belief systems about health and healing, and because of their position in the biomedical health system, the nurses are caught in a dialectical tension between their traditional beliefs and their acquired beliefs. They refuse to collaborate with traditional healers because they believe that traditional healers practice sorcery. They refuse to collaborate with spiritual healers because they do not view them as health care providers.


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