WORLD ANTHROPOLOGICAL UNION

CONGRESS 2024​

SELECTED PANEL

( pn84 )

Reimagining anthropological knowledge: connecting the less connected traditional knowledge systems of medicine of the tribes in the post-colonial era

Organizers

    Nishant Saxena

    India

    ICMR National Institute of Research in Tribal Health, Jabalpur

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

    Tom Marshall

    United Kingdom

    Queen's University, Belfast

    Face to Face/ On Site - Presence

IUAES Affiliation: Medical Anthropology and Epidemiology

IUAES Affiliation: Indigenous Knowledge and Sustainable Development

Keywords:

tribes, traditional knowledge, ethnomedicine, Post-colonialism, India

Abstract:

Tribes or indigenous groups make up about 6% of the global population (United Nations and World Bank estimates). Of this, India is home to the second largest indigenous population in the world numbering more than 104 million (Census 2011). Also, the tribes are tremendously diverse. In India alone, 705 ethnic groups are officially recognized as Scheduled Tribes, and out of these 75 are identified as Particularly Vulnerable Tribal Groups (PVTGs) owing to their dwindling population. The majority of tribes continue to inhabit the rural and less connected, remotest, and far-flung parts of the country like the Himalayas, or dessert of Rajasthan, forests of Central India, and the islands of Andaman and Nicobar to name a few. Yet, one commonality among all the socio-culturally and eco-geographic diverse tribes is the presence of indigenous traditional knowledge systems (ITKS) of domains like medicine and health (both human and animal health), agriculture, water harvesting, arts and aesthetics, natural disasters, etc. This wisdom/science has helped them survive and perpetuate in the tough and challenging terrains for thousands of years now. The advent of the modern era brought to the forefront the scientific domains like medicine, engineering, mathematics, basic sciences, technology, information technology, artificial intelligence (the recent one), and others. This however resulted in the indigenous traditional knowledge systems taking the back seat and being almost forgotten. Anthropologists in particular, and other social science scholars, have done a tremendous job by not taking the attention completely away from these ancient wisdoms. They continue to track, document, and research the ITKS using their tools and drawing upon newer methods and techniques. This artifact of anthropology is an outcome of the colonial era which continues even today. The present panel focuses on understanding, researching and bringing to the forefront the debates and dialogues, primarily anthropological in nature, revolving around the traditional knowledge systems of medicine in the tribes of India and indigenous populations across the globe. We aim to focus on issues that help, and at the same time inhibit, the dissemination of such knowledge among the wider masses. The important questions concerning the panel are: • Why is there such a low acceptance of the traditional knowledge of medicine in tribes among the non-tribes? • How the studies could be structured/re-structured to enhance their acceptance? • Debates revolving around this knowledge system. • Interesting findings about this knowledge system from India and across the globe. • How this unconnected knowledge system be connected with the public health system (papers concerning such ‘experiments’ are welcome)? • Role of anthropologists in this discourse in the post-colonial era. The panel is not merely limited to these questions/ inquiries and is open to debating or brooding upon other questions concerning the broader framework.