Different Systems of Knowledge Found in the Reproductive Health of Ashaninka Women from the Peruvian Amazon

Keywords: medical pluralism, medical landscape, resilience, medicinal plants, midwifery, indigenous Amazon


Indigenous Ashaninka people from the Peruvian Amazon operate within their communal reserve and autonomous native communities, where biomedical health posts and biomedical practitioners are present. This article analyses how the two systems of knowledge and practice i.e., indigenous medicine and biomedicine, coexist in the Ashaninka territory and how they are articulated in childbirth, birth control and other aspects of reproductive health. Their medicinal cosmology privileges the medicinal plant use and midwifery. At the same time, these practices are compatible with biomedical thinking. The childbirth techniques widely shared by the Ashaninka women and midwifes do not change substantially
after biomedical training. Instead, Ashaninka women complementarily add new practices to their own pre-existing array of contraceptive and labour techniques, without shifting their ontological basis. The Ashaninka seem a resilient society, one which is capable of “absorbing” novel biomedical knowledge, practices and technology into their medical landscape, while remaining within their cultural boundaries and thus preserving their specific features.


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Author Biography

Monika Kujawska, Department of Ethnology and Cultural Anthropology at the University of Lodz

PhD in ethnology, assistant professor in DEaCA Univ. of Lodz


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Leaves of Xanthosoma cf. sagittifolium which resemble vagina. The starchy tuber of this plant is used as a pusanga (photo: M. Kujawska).
How to Cite
Kujawska, M. (2019). Different Systems of Knowledge Found in the Reproductive Health of Ashaninka Women from the Peruvian Amazon. Ethnologia Polona, 40, 213-246. Retrieved from http://journals.iaepan.pl/ethp/article/view/32