The Clash of Two Worlds: The Integration of Scientific and Traditional Healing through Development Discourse among the Hmong Communities in Lao People’s Democratic Republic

By Kimberly C. Mendonca.

Published by The International Journal of Science in Society

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Development, from a broad perspective, is neither new nor uncommon. As a result of media attention, Westerners are becoming more versed on global development challenges to reduce poverty, hunger and disease. Some of the world’s most famous actors have become activists and now serve as spokespeople for organizations that promote development. However, missing from these efforts is clear understanding of the unique needs and desires of various people of the world and, as a result, the best way to assist them in the fulfillment of those needs often remains unexplored.
From the perspective of interpretive anthropology with selected theories drawn from a critical hermeneutic orientation, this paper investigates concepts of development. More specifically, it focuses on governmental policies in Laos that promise to develop a more efficient primary health care system that is readily accessible to all communities. One community greatly affected by such policies are the Hmong, an ethnic minority among the hill people of Laos.
For generations, the Hmong have practice traditional, or what some refer to as alternative, healing. Through government-sponsored migrations, Hmong villages are on the move to lower lands and are being introduced to western medicine. This paper seeks to examine the meeting of these two ways of healing using Ricoeur’s (1984, 1985, 1988) theories of narrative identity, mimesis and action as the framework for explorations of the research inquiry. This research will focus on changing the lens from which health care is viewed, shifting it away from being seen as a linear process to one that is understood as an interpretative, encompassing and complimentary process.

Keywords: International Development, Critical Hermeneutics, Hmong, Health Care, Narrative Identity, Mimesis, Paul Ricoeur

The International Journal of Science in Society, Volume 2, Issue 2, pp.139-148. Article: Print (Spiral Bound). Article: Electronic (PDF File; 561.684KB).

Dr. Kimberly C. Mendonca

Consultant, National Compliance Office of Ethics and Integrity, University of San Francisco, USA

Kimberly works in the health care industry as a compliance consultant. Her research, through the framework of critical hermeneutics, reflects her interest in international development as it influences leadership, health care and education in Lao, PDR.