Different Truths: Ethnomedicine In Early Postcards
by De Smet, Peter A.G.M.
About This Book
All over the world, native peoples have been looking for ways to prevent illness and to cope with such misfortune, should it happen to them anyway. This book explores supernatural and natural healing practices all over the world. It illustrates the global importance of these themes by showing a selection of 270 colonial postcards in their original colours, from the early days of the 20th century. These cards are a rich source of visual information about native health and healing, which has been largely overlooked so far.
The author's examination is guided by the principle that native therapies are often directed at the perceived cause of an illness. This cause is often personal in tribal settings (e.g., an evil sorcerer, spirit or ancestor) and impersonal in great medical systems (e.g., an imbalance of basic body components). The book also covers the portrayal of Western folk medicine, colonial health care and tropical pathology on early postcards. The latter topic invites the modern reader to work out his or her personal response to these often penetrating images.
Before reviewing postcard images of native healers and healing methods, the book investigates their meanings for those who produced and collected them in the past and for those who collect and study them today. This introduction makes clear that colonial postcards reveal as much about Ourselves as about the Others. It also cautions that pictorial postcards may be less truthful than they seem to be, because photographers and publishers regularly interfered with their mise-en-scene, production and caption. The book reproduces more than 270 postcards, in their original colours.
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