Malaria as unconscious strategy: why healers and patients “do” malaria differently.
Dr Dalia Iskander
Teaching Fellow in Medical Anthropology, University College London, UK
"Malaria remains endemic on the island of Palawan in the Philippines and is a particular problem among the indigenous Palawan. Drawing on 12 months of ethnographic fieldwork in the municipality of Bataraza, largely among the Palawan, I explore what malaria is in this context. Drawing on the work of Annemarie Mol, I argue that malaria is not a universal singular disease (recognised or dealt with differently in various contexts by different groups of people) but is something different in different contexts and is thus multiple. I argue that this multiplicity comes about because different versions of malaria come into being in common every day socio-material practices that different groups of people engage in for strategic reasons. I demonstrate this by focussing on the practices of healers and patients and describe their practices related to malaria. I show how practices between individuals and groups differ but also overlap and unite due to the shared strategic interests that groups of people share. In the case of healers, their malaria-related practices are similarly united in their attempts to achieve professionalization. This contrasts with patients whose malaria-related practices are orientated towards feeling better. Drawing on Pierre Bourdieu, I argue that these strategic interests are largely unconscious. I therefore draw attention to the role of the pre-reflexive and habitual in structuring both the practices surrounding diseases as well as what diseases such as malaria are."