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Genealogies of affliction. Aetiological regimes and causal assessment in an Indian sub-caste

Abstract : This research is part of a larger enquiry into the nature of the varying types of relations that inform the notion of belonging of a group of individuals to their subcaste. Our specific case study here is an investigation into the aetiological repertoires of a rural sub-caste in the district of Madurai. At first glance, the Pramalai Kallars appear to easily combine the different types of medical traditions available to them (local medicinal plants, bio-medecine, siddha and ayurveda) according to criteria of cost, distance and personal convictions. But a more systematic investigation of a sample of 50 "afflictions" (ranging from benign symptoms such as diarrhoeas, headaches, cuts, soars, menstrual disorders to more serious conditions such as hip malformations, convulsions, arthritis, etc as well as including various kinds of "psychological" ailments) not only introduces in a wider range of practitioners (such as the temple priest, the possessed singer, the barber, etc...) but more interestingly shows that there is no systematic correlation between the nosology, that is the distinctive character of the affliction, and its aetiology, that is the cause of the morbid manifestation. This entails that in the representation of our Pramalai Kallar informants, an identical symptom may be attributed to a purely material cause or may have a socio-cosmic genealogy. The exact cause of the affliction nature must be determined before the healing process can efficiently begin. This lecture will detail the five regimes of causality, or aetiological repertoires, which the Pramalai Kallars confront in order to arrive at the right diagnosis.
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Contributor : Zoé Headley <>
Submitted on : Tuesday, June 5, 2012 - 10:33:19 AM
Last modification on : Wednesday, October 14, 2020 - 3:42:17 AM


  • HAL Id : halshs-00704290, version 1


Zoé E. Headley. Genealogies of affliction. Aetiological regimes and causal assessment in an Indian sub-caste. Indian Anthropologist, 2007, pp.29-48. ⟨halshs-00704290⟩



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