Healing Insanity: A Study of Igbo Medicine in Contemporary Nigeria
By Patrick E. Iroegbu
Healing Insanity: A Study of Igbo Medicine in Contemporary Nigeria is an original and in-depth study on endogenous medical system in an African society. It is craftly written; and provides a solid insight, through case studies and theory, into how insanity affects patients and the society. Particularly, it explores various collective representations and strategies regarding insanity and healing as it examines the healing institutions, healers, and ritual cults. The central question is, given the patterns of healing, how do the Igbo shape the incidence and symptoms of insanity, define its aetiology, and provide healers with culture-specific resources and skills to address this illness? The focus became increasingly centred on bodily semantics and endogenous knowledge systems and practices. Dr. Patrick Iroegbu's work is a very valuable and rare study and has appeared at a desirable time.
It is, for an African society, a comprehensive study of the many ways Igbo people, in their practical, routinelike attitudes and body-centred experiences, as well as in their more reflective aetiologic knowledge and healing institutions, relate to the phenomenon of insanity, or ara, in the cultural parlance. As the first of its kind, reminiscent of, and assured by, the various remarks of Igbo scholars and leaders at various meetings and discourses, the task this work has set out to accomplish is a very brave one. The author's account of his fieldwork experiences and adopted techniques illustrates his initiation, revealing him as a genuine ethnographer who is a "friend of people and at ease with his field." With both the far-seeing and inspiring analysis of Igbo medicine, life, and culture accounted for in the work, the book stands out for ethnographers, teachers, students, leaders, policymakers, and the general public. This is a book that deserves to be read as it shapes the critical path towards understanding ways of healing insanity in a culture-specific context, crosscutting perspectives for a relationship between indigenous healing and the biomedical sphere.
- Prof. Ren� Devisch (Africa Research Centre, University of Leuven) This book is written with a clear purpose for everyone to read - to understand and heal insanity - and indeed provides a thick piece of cultural philosophy and vernacular of Igbo medicine in hopes of putting cultural wisdom in pursuit of integral health care development. - Pantaleon Iroegbu (Professor of Philosophy, Major-Seminary, Ekpoma, January 2006) To read this book, as I did, is to get the benefit of Dr. Patrick Iroegbu's ethnographic insight for an archetypical African healing system in Igboland. It offers a fascinating theory of symbolic release that speaks of African symbolic action and knowledge system. - Paul Komba, Esq. (University of Cambridge)
Patrick E. Iroegbu