Magic, Religion, and Medicine: Conflicts and Crossing among Plural Medical Systems in the Modern Philippines

Apr 5 12:00–1:30pm
Common Room, 2 Divinity Avenue, Cambridge

Azuma Kentaro (Associate Professor, Graduate School of Letters, Nagoya University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/Discussant: Byron Good (Professor of Medical Anthropology, Department of Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School; Professor, Department of Anthropology, Harvard University)

Co-sponsored with the Harvard University Asia Center

This talk examines, from the case of plural medical systems in a provincial city of the Philippines, the relationship among magic, religion and modern medicine as well as the utilization of each system as a resource for the sick.

Anthropologists have long been concerned with the magical and religious beliefs and practices of people belonging to the non-Western world, under the condition of asymmetrical relations such as traditional/modern, colonized/colonizing or developing/developed. In recent years, following the changing context in post-modernity, late capitalism and globalization, there are new trends to posit magic and religion as our own irrationality or malcontents in the contemporary world. However, such shifts may merely be a transitional measure that replaces the otherness different from us with the otherness within us.

This talk presents field data on the plural medical systems including conflict, tension, and oppression as well as the cross-cutting medical behaviors of sick people in a provincial city of the Philippine. The three systems of magic, religion, and modern medicine, while being in a competitive power relationship with each other, keep everyday activity with their own logic. Even after recognizing the asymmetric relationship between the medical systems and their influences, sick people cross among multiple medical systems in everyday life.

Finally, this talk will examine how people continue to desire magic and religion encompassing the strong otherness in the fully modern context. It will be another way of seeking for the otherness as neither being different from us nor part of us, but as something unspeakable or unpresent yet to come.