Season 2 (ONLINE): “Indigenous Narratives of Healthcare” (Winter Semester 2021)

  • 14 September, 16–17 EET

Prof. Bodil Hansen Blix (Department of Health and Care Sciences, Faculty of Health Sciences, UiT, the Arctic University of Norway): “Playfulness in narrative care with Indigenous older adults”

  • 5 October, 16–17 EET

Dr Wasiq Silan (Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki): “Decolonizing care: listening to the voices of bnkis, Tayal Elders”

  • 2 November, 16–17 EET

Dr Mounia El Kotni (Cems-EHESS Paris): “Traditional medical knowledge at risk: the struggle of indigenous midwives and doctors in Mexico”

  • 23 November, 16–17 EET (TBC)

Dr Emily Timms University of Vienna): TBC

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Abstracts and Speakers’ bios:

Prof. Bodil Hansen Blix: “Playfulness in narrative care with Indigenous older adults”

In this talk, I will slightly twist the seminar series topic ‘Indigenous Narratives of Healthcare’ and rather reflect on how attending to Indigenous narratives is and must be an integral part of care. Narrative care is not merely about acknowledging or listening to people’s stories. Care itself is an intrinsically narrative endeavor. In this talk, I build on Lugones’ understanding of playfulness, particularly her call to remain attentive to a sense of uncertainty, and an openness to surprise. Playfulness cultivates a generative sense of curiosity that relies on a close attentiveness not only to the other, but to who we each are within relational spaces. Generative curiosity is only possible if we remain playful as we engage and think with experiences and if we remain responsive to the other. Through playfulness, we resist dominant narratives and hold open relational spaces that create opportunities of retelling and reliving our experiences. Drawing on my work alongside Sami older adults, I will reflect on the possibilities of playfulness in the co-composition of stories across time. 

Bodil H. Blix is a professor with the Department of health and care sciences, the Faculty of health sciences, UiT The arctic university of Norway. She is head of the master’s degree program in aging and geriatric healthcare at UiT The arctic university of Norway. She is also chair of the research group Centre for care research north. Her research interests are in the intersections of narrative inquiry and critical gerontology. She is interested in the lives and well-being of older adults in general and Indigenous older adults in particular. Her expertise concerns older adults and family caregivers, with a particular attention to how gendered, ethnic, and socio-economic inequities are sustained and how such inequities could be addressed and counteracted. She has conducted several research projects with Sami communities.

Dr Wasiq Silan: “Decolonizing care: listening to the voices of bnkis, Tayal Elders”

This presentation explores the “wholistic” as a central concept of “the good life” as expressed by the bnkis, Tayal Indigenous Elders, who participated in the Day Club, Tayal territory of Northern Taiwan. In particular, I analyze the stories of care experienced by the bnkis from the standpoint of wholistic relationships. The stories were recorded primarily between 2015 and 2018. In this analysis we used a critical qualitative design approach, privileging Tayal epistemology and informed by Tayal hermeneutics. The results show that the concept of well-being for the bnkis is closely linked to their relationships with people and with the land and spirituality. It is through these relationships that the continuation of Gaga— Tayal law and cosmology— has been adapted organically over time. We argue that Gaga is central to Tayal Elder/bnkis care, and that it is imperative in promoting their well-being. In the long-term, in developing an elderly care system that is genuinely culturally relevant, the concept of wholistic relationships, central to Gaga well-being, is essential. This research demonstrates how the wholistic concept can improve human health and well-being, and ultimately provides implications for sustainable development.

Wasiq Silan a Tayal from the riverscape of Taranan, north Tayal territory, Taiwan. She works as a researcher at the Centre for Research on Ethnic Relations and Nationalism, University of Helsinki. Her research focuses on Indigenous governance and sovereignty, relations between coloniality and indigeneity, knowledge production and elderly care. Wasiq is currently working on a project funded by the Norwegian Research Council that explores ageing, quality of life, and home-based care among two Indigenous Peoples: Sámi in Norway and Tayal in Taiwan. Wasiq defended her doctoral dissertation entitled “Social Policies and Indigenous Peoples in Taiwan: Elderly Care Among the Tayal” in mid-May 2021. 

Dr Mounia El Kotni: “Traditional medical knowledge at risk: the struggle of indigenous midwives and doctors in Mexico”

Since the late 1980s, the Organization of Indigenous Doctors of Chiapas (OMIECH) aims at safeguarding and transmitting traditional indigenous medical knowledge. The organization made of over fifty members from several municipalities of the State of Chiapas has a long history of stepping up in the face of international, national and local policies threatening traditional healers and midwives’ knowledge. In the mid-1990s OMIECH was part of a movement rejecting a bioprospection project. Thirty years later, the organization is at the forefront of the struggle to resist the institutionalizing of midwifery.

In this talk, I reflect on the long-standing activism of OMIECH and the diverse threats, past and present, traditional midwives face and how they struggle to maintain their practices. I also interrogate the role researchers have in the process of cultural appropriation and defense.

Mounia El Kotni is a medical anthropologist based in Paris, France. Her research interests include traditional midwifery, gender and biomedicine (in particular breast cancer and childbirth) and environmental health. Since 2013, she has collaborated with OMIECH on the impact of global health policies on traditional midwives’ practices.