Academic journal article African Studies Review

Those Who Touch: Tuareg Medicine Women in Anthropological Perspective

Academic journal article African Studies Review

Those Who Touch: Tuareg Medicine Women in Anthropological Perspective

Article excerpt

HEALTH AND DISEASE Susan J. Rasmussen. Those Who Touch: Tuareg Medicine Women in Anthropological Perspective. DeKalb: Northern Illinois University Press, 2006. xii + 234 pp. Photographs. Map. Notes. Bibliography. Index. $26.00. Paper,

The author is well known for her studies of the Tuareg of Mali and Niger, about whom she has extensively written. In her 2001 volume, Healing in Community Medicine: Contested Terrains, and Cultural Encounters among the Tuareg (Bergin & Garvey), she broadly discussed traditional Tuareg medicine, its negotiated position between religion and healing, and its essence as an intervention intended for a moral community rather than for a patient alone. In the volume under review here, her focus is on Tuareg medicine women who diagnose physical illness by touching, heal through the use of botanicals, and provide marital counseling.

The book is divided into three parts: "Departures: Herbal Medicine and Local and Authoritative Systems of Thought"; "Touch and Word: Learning and Transmitting Medicine"; and "Medicine Women and Wider Systems of Power." These in turn are subdivided into ten chapters. Early on, the author provides important benchmarks for the concepts of wellness, illness, and healing among Tuareg women healers, and then she discusses touch as the essential diagnostic modality in their system of therapeutics. In later chapters, Rasmussen explores not only the complex role these Tuareg medicine women play in addressing physical suffering and social conflicts, but also their discrete use of adjuvants such as divination and spirit mediumship, and their adaptive strategies in facing the increasing forces of social, political, and cultural change. Of special importance are Rasmussen's three final chapters, "Medicine Women and Islam," "Medicine Women and Other Shamans," and "Changes in the Wind. …

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