Indigenous Disease Categories, Medical Dialogues and Social Positions

  • Dorthe Brogård Kristensen


In this chapter, the cases of patients—mestizo and Mapuche—with a Mapuche illness are examined in relation to experiences of categories of class and culture. This highlight aspects of olvido, the social forgetting of inequalities in relation to class and ethnicity. The question here, inspired by Libbet Crandon-Malamud’s article “Why susto?” (Ethnology. An International Journal of Cultural and Social Anthropology XXII: 153–169, 1983) concerns the possibilities for expression of identity, agency and social positions that the diagnosis of susto offers patients. By analysing the cases of two Mapuche women, I suggest that the value of indigenous diagnosis is that it serves as a means for expressing and negotiating a vulnerable position (Sontag, Illness as Metaphor: Aids and its Metaphors. London: Penguin Books, 1991; Crandon-Malamud, American Ethnologist 13: 463–477, 1986). Medical dialogues and medical practices become a means to negotiate and establish social bonds between persons who share the same social positioning, in this case Mapuche and the landless and unemployed mestizo.


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© The Author(s) 2019

Authors and Affiliations

  • Dorthe Brogård Kristensen
    • 1
  1. 1.University of Southern DenmarkOdense MDenmark

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