chapter  11
30 Pages

Killing and healing revisited: On cultural difference, warfare, and sacrifice

On cultural difference, warfare, and sacrifice

In an essay I wrote twenty years ago for Charles Leslie, entitled “Death and Nurturance in Indian Systems of Healing” (1983), I made an effort to show how seemingly very discrepant systems of healing in southern India complemented one another and fit together into an overall pattern. I was attempting to build on Charles Leslie’s theories about medical pluralism in India. One of the thoughts I expressed in that essay was that (in the healing systems I was examining) powerful medicines, beings, and acts were ones that had both killing and healing potencies. A pervasive mythology underpinning these medical systems linked suffering with power, and life with death. These conclusions were not original, but they were expressed in an elegant fashion. In fact, the means of expression would be considered too elegant today. Everything fitted together a bit too nicely.