Flower extract and golden ash for HIV patients in Myanmar: Anthropological study of HIV treating healers at the margins of the formal health system – a seminar by Dr Céline Coderey (Wed, 2 March 2016)

Speaker: Dr Céline Coderey (Research Fellow, Asia Research Institute and Teaching Fellow in Tembusu College, NUS)
Date: Wednesday, 2 March 2016
Time: 4:00pm – 5:30pm
Venue: AS3, Level 6, SEAS Seminar Room (06-20)

Next to Thailand and Cambodia, Myanmar has the highest rate of HIV infection anywhere outside Africa. The only form of treatment formally recognized and allowed by the State is the antiretroviral treatment provided by biomedical services. However, because the government has long been unwilling to acknowledge and handle the problem and even hindered the work of NGOs operating in the sector, the accessibility of the treatment is very low. Besides this authorized treatment, many non-recognized and non-authorized therapies are provided by healers practicing different forms of traditional medicine: herbal medicine (especially in the form of extracts) and even more alchemic medicine. Their practices have been banned as a consequence of the institutionalisation and modernisation of traditional medicine initiated by the government in the post-independence period and the need to comply with international biomedical standards. Nevertheless, controls are lacking and rules are not strictly implemented, contributing to the persistence and popularity of these healers.

On the basis of cases studied collected during fieldwork trips conducted between 2013 and 2015 in different parts of Myanmar this paper will focus on these healers and the way they negotiate the margins between legality and illegality and navigate the space created by the lack of controls thus being able – despite their formal marginal position – to occupy a very central position in the healing arena.

About the speaker
Céline Coderey is a Research Fellow at the Asia Research Institute in the Science, Technology, and Society Cluster, and Teaching Fellow in Tembusu College. She received her M.A and PhD in Anthropology from the University of Provence, Aix-Marseille 1 (FR) and a M.A in Psychology at the University of Lausanne (Switzerland). For the last ten years she has been working on medical and healing practices in Myanmar exploring such topics as the obstacles to the accessibility of biomedicine, notably in the field of reproductive health and mental health, the institutionalisation of traditional medicine, and the role of divination and astrology. Before coming to Singapore she was postdoctoral fellow at the Centre Norbert Elias of Marseille with a grant from the Swiss National Fund.