Urban Oceania

Exploring Urban Social Change in Oceania

Reading Group Summary: September 14th, 2020

Article Discussed: Phillips, T. (2020). The Everyday Politics of Risk: Managing Diabetes in Fiji. Medical Anthropology, 1-16.

Tayloraye Bailey

Summary: Phillips (2020) investigates the different ontologies of diabetes in Fiji. The predominant neoliberal perspective labels itaukei Fijian ways of managing diabetes as ‘irresponsible’, ‘ignorant’ and disobedient to western medical procedures. There is, however, no consideration of the socioeconomic, geographic, ethnomedical and spiritual stance that has an impact on an individual’s choice of diabetes risk management. Phillips (2020) recognises that there is limited healthcare access in the Pacific. Even though free of charges, these facilities are short-staffed and under-resourced. Such resources for diabetes and other non-communicable diseases are only available in private healthcare, unaffordable for many are living around or below the poverty line. Traditional herbal medicines upheld by the iTaukeis people and their ancestors brings pride and comfort, whereas the unnatural composition and side effects in western medicine blossoms scepticism in effectiveness to treatment of illness. Furthermore, biomedicine is seen as an infringement on indigenous traditional medicine; hence it can be argued that it is a colonized method. Increasing reliance on ethnomedical practices is seen to sustain cultural identity within a world ruled by globalization. Phillips (2020) argues that the seemingly different biomedical and local ethnomedical models of medicine have been proven to work hand-in-hand in many other cases. An example is of the spirituality and Christianity paradigms, combining belief in herbal medicine and faith of God through something productive like prayer, creates a sense of control and reassurance, an element lacking in biomedicine. After removing the paternalistic neoliberal ways of thinking and stereotypes, the system could find a way to bridge the gap of inequality and find methods to combined ethnomedicine and biomedicine to give locals a choice in treatment and better risk-management in diabetes.


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