Currently writing up his PhD, Petros has spent the last two years embedded in the margins where medical anthropology and public health overlap. Though his PhD is based within Edinburgh’s School of Community Health Sciences, he spends a great deal of time immersed in anthropological literature. He has spent time exploring the interrelationship between ‘African traditional medicine’ and ‘Western biomedicine’ in a town in South Africa’s Mpumalanga province with a focus on trying to understand how ‘biomedical’ practitioners approach the ontological and epistemic tensions inherent in South Africa’s broad therapeutic landscape. Prior to the PhD, he completed a MSc in Public Health Research, also at Edinburgh University, where the project focused on exploring ‘traditional’ concepts of health and illness with izangoma in KwaZulu Natal, and prior to that, he did an MSc in Rural Development at the University of Wales, Bangor.
Biomedical Limits: The bounding of medical pluralism within South Africa’s tuberculosis hospitals.
Petros Isidoros Andreadis
South Africahas experienced an emergence of a HIV driven TB epidemic over the last two decades. Many of those afflicted migrate across, and between, the borders of South Africa’s culturally diverse health systems as they seek suitable, multiple, or indeed alternative illness explanations. A history of conflict between two of these systems, Western biomedicine and African traditional medicine, can be found scattered throughout South Africa’s public health literature where practitioners of the former often characterise the ‘cultural practices’ of the latter as unscientific, superstitious, and potentially dangerous. Using observations, patient narratives, and nurse interviews, I explore the concept of the South African tuberculosis hospital - a guarded, gated, and razor wire enclosed facility - as a site of biomedical power. I discuss 1) how biomedical practitioners within the tuberculosis hospital purportedly suppresses both the ideology and use of African traditional medicines by patients, while simultaneously requesting that they submit to what may be a painful and extended tuberculosis treatment regimen, and 2) I explore the manner in which patients are said to challenge biomedical power through the clandestine use of African traditional medicines within the facility boundaries. What emerges is a discussion of how South Africa’s tuberculosis hospitals serve as unique a location for examining the continuing discourse on the implications of medical pluralism on South Africa’s tuberculosis epidemic.