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State, religion and the marginalisation of traditional healing in Gwadar, Pakistan

Abstract

This ethnographic encounter explores suppression and domination faced by traditional health seekers in Gwadar, Pakistan. The study aimed to provide an insight into the ways in which practicing traditional healthcare becomes a challenge when it conflicts with the assimilationist project of the state. Qualitative research methods, including in-depth interviews and participant observation, were used to collect data on the encounters of traditional health seekers with the state and dominant religion. The findings show that traditional health seeking behaviour was stereotyped as non-civilised and archaic by medical staff, and labelled as non-religious, and thus, suppressed by radical Islamist groups and other state apparatuses. This situation has further negative effects on the health of traditional health seekers as the national healthcare system does not efficiently provide the services required by this population. State laws, a general environment of fear, and threats have led this population to legal consciousness and contextual awareness; they have further adopted multiple resistance strategies to navigate and circumvent oppressive laws and domination in order to follow their traditional healthcare practices. This study suggests that national cosmopolitan healthcare services provided to the fishing community should be tailored to and not suppress the culturally specific health needs of that population. Members of the fishing community should not be compelled to abstain from their traditional healthcare and health-seeking behaviours; traditional healthcare practices should be merged with cosmopolitan ones in order to address the sociocultural issues and meet the health needs of this marginalised population.

  • health policy
  • medical anthropology
  • social anthropology
  • anthropology
  • human rights
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