An Exploration of Health Perceptions and Practices among South Asian Descendants Living in Dunedin, New Zealand
Drawing from critical medical anthropology, post-colonial theory and case-study interviews with nine people of South Asian descent living in Dunedin, this research asks whether there may be a greater demand for medical pluralism than currently exists in the New Zealand health care sector. Among differing cultures are diverse ways in which health and the body are understood. With South Asians among the fastest growing migrant populations, New Zealand is increasingly becoming a multicultural nation. Yet western biomedicine remains the dominant form of health care available. An exploration of the perceptions, experiences and health practices of participants in this research reveals explicit and tacit knowledge that has been passed down through generations. Their narratives reflect a pluralist approach to medicine where traditional remedies are often used as first choice for general health concerns and biomedical treatment is sought for more serious conditions. While most participants are not adverse to biomedical treatment, many indicate a preference for ‘natural’ remedies they perceive to be safe in comparison with pharmaceutical drugs. Some express concerns about what they consider to be a loss of traditional knowledge around health; this they attribute to the high-pressure demands of a modern lifestyle. The use of home remedies provides effective and empowering strategies to attend some of their health concerns, and may be contextualised as a means to negotiate biomedical authority. Traditional health practices are for some an integral part of the diaspora experience and, in the interest of multiculturalism, such concerns should be reflected in the New Zealand health care sector.
Advisor: Jacqueline, Leckie
Degree Name: Master of Arts
Degree Discipline: Anthropology
Publisher: University of Otago
Keywords: Migrant health; Traditional medicine; Critical Medical Anthropology; Home remedies; South Asian diasporas
Research Type: Thesis