arshileGorkyArticleMenu_layout

L'ethnomédecine maya comme science

Séminaire du 28 novembre 2016

Elois Ann Berlin and Brent Berlin,
Medical Ethnobiology
of the Highland Maya of Chiapas, Mexico
,
Princeton, Princeton University Press, 1996

Je pars ici de l'Aperçu d'ethno-médecine maya signé par Elois Ann Berlin, pp.52ss. Elle est medical anthropologist, tandis que Brent Berlin est l'un des maîtres de l'ethnoscience.

Dans le domaine de la santé et des pratiques médicales, les débats et controverses sur la valeur respective de l'universel et du particulier et sur la contradiction ou la complémentarité entre savoirs locaux et science globale tournent autour de la distinction établie en 1976 par George Foster entre deux types d'étiologie des maladies.

George M. Foster, Disease etiologies in non‐western medical systems, American Anthropologist 78.4 (1976): 773–782.

This paper argues that disease etiology is the key to cross-cultural comparison of non- Western medical systems. Two principal etiologies are identified: personalistic and naturalistic. Correlated with personalistic etiologies are the belief that all misfortune, disease included, is explained in the same way; illness, religion, and magic are inseparable; the most powerful curers have supernatural and magical powers, and their primary role is diagnostic. Correlated with naturalistic etiologies are the belief that disease causality has nothing to do with other misfortunes; religion and magic are largely unrelated to illness; the principal curers lack supernatural or magical powers, and their primary role is therapeutic.

Chez les Mayas du Chiapas, le diagnostic personnaliste assigne pour cause à la maladie par exemple une mauvaise rencontre avec les esprits des ancêtres:

(Elois Ann, 52) The personalistic condition jme'tik jtatik, lit. 'our ancestral mothers and fathers', may result from an inadvertent encounter with these ancestral spirits. Any given case of jme' tik jtatik could involve gastrointestinal symptoms. The initial diagnosis could possibly be personalistic; most frequently, however, such cases are first treated with plant medicinals, and later classed as personalistic in cases that are unresponsive to herbal remedies or that are either prolonged or progressively worsen. These patterns of diagnosis have been extensively described by virtually everyone who has studied the subject. Diagnosis and treatment frequently involve the intervention of healers with special powers, such as a pulser or diviner. While personalistic conditions may at times also be treated with herbal medications, Maya curers normally employ remedies that require ceremonial healing rituals and special prayers.

Quelques principes du système naturaliste maya:

[Concept de symptôme]
/53/ A health condition in the naturalistic system is symptom-based.

[Classification polythétique: un noyau stable et des membres plus instables]
There is a small core group within each of these [classes] that includes the conditions that are first named and most typical examples, and which enjoy universal agreement concerning membership. Using consistency of recognition and stability of name as indicators of cultural salience of health conditions, some conditions have greater cultural importance than others. These highly significant conditions are always grouped together in independent listings. They have more stable and widely recognized names and are represented at higher frequency in all areas of data collection. These conditions comprise the core group.

[Homologies entre personnaliste et naturaliste]
Some personalistic conditions show symptoms similar to conditions in the naturalistic system. For example, buluk' sit lit. 'bulging eye [worm]', vaginal intrusion of a caterpillar with magical powers, is always associated with infertility and is always personalistic. This same symptom complex of infertility occurs, with a distinct name, in the naturalistic system, for example, sikil antz lit. 'cold woman', a condition in which a woman is infertile due to the reproductive problems described as a 'cold' uterus.

[Glissement de naturaliste à personnaliste, 54]
Most if not all conditions that are members of the symptom-based naturalistic system may also participate in the personalistic system. Conditions of this type normally carry an initial diagnosis within the naturalistic system, but are found to be of extreme severity or are resistant to treatment; they are then reclassified as personalistic in etiology.

[Humorisme médical, 60]
In the Maya medicinal system, death is the ultimate cold condition and, except where there is either a generalized or localized elevation in body temperature, illness is considered to be a cold state. It follows, then, that a primary healing quality of treatments should be therapies that are perceived /61/ to have as part of their curative effects the ability to affect the thermal state/ condition of the patient. As will be seen below, however, an extensive set of additional qualities also exists. These qualities are directed at treatment of aspects other than the thermal state. [Autrement dit: à la dialectique froid/chaud s'ajoutent les autres qualités sensibles.] Henceforth we will refer to all of these perceived curative properties of plants as medicinal virtues, in the sense of their curative power, force, efficacy, or potency (cf. virtue of a medicine).

[Compensation des contraires entre qualités sensibles]
/61/ Most frequently reported medicinal virtues: warm, cold, bitter, caustic, astringent, sour, all right, good, humid/moist, sweet smell, sulphur scent.

Le plus souvent le premier diagnostic est naturaliste, et le premier traitement pharmaceutique. On passe au diagnostic personnaliste et aux traitements religieux ou magiques en cas de complication ou d'aggravation.

(54) Most if not all conditions that are members of the symptom-based naturalistic system may also participate in the personalistic system. Conditions of this type normally carry an initial diagnosis within the naturalistic system, but are found to be of extreme severity or are resistant to treatment; they are then reclassified as personalistic in etiology.

Mais les époux Berlin rompent avec tous leurs devanciers qui, en ethnomédecine maya, n'avaient étudié que le diagnostic personnaliste et les aspects cosmologiques de la thérapeutique. Les Berlin, à l'inverse, se concentrent exclusivement sur le diagnostic naturaliste et les remèdes à base de plantes (herbal medications).

C'est une rupture fondamentale et un débat capital entre Personnalistes et Naturalistes qui a pris des dimensions éthiques et politiques et qui a coupé l'anthropologie médicale en deux camps ennemis à partir des années 1980. D'un côté, l'anthropologie médicale, engagée dès ses débuts dans les années 70 en faveur des patients et des médecines alternatives contre le pouvoir médical et la biomédecine, a dérivé vers une anthropologie de l'oppression et de la souffrance sociale (à Berkeley, à Harvard dans les années 90) ou une anthropologie morale et politique (ex. Didier Fassin). De l'autre, une petite minorité d'anthropologues travaillant sur les médecines traditionnelles se sont concentrés sur l'ethnobiologie, la botanique médicale et la pharmacie, comme c'est ici le cas. D'un côté, une anthropologie médicale politiquement engagée mais qui méconnaissait en le contournant le contenu scientifique des savoirs médicaux indigènes. De l'autre, une idéologie universaliste (forte chez Brent Berlin) mais une «ethnobiologie médicale» apportant une aide décisive à la réappropriation par les savants indigènes de leur patrimoine intellectuel. Les premiers mots de l'Introduction, à cet égard, sonnent comme un manifeste militant:

(3) Work over the past several decades in the emerging field of ethnobiology, and research in medical ethnobotany in particular, has demonstrated that ethnobiological knowledge of traditional peoples conforms in many respects to basic scientific principles and that recognition of the curative properties of medicinal plants is not simply unsubstantiated folklore. Since the late 1970s traditional herbal medicine has been given major emphasis by the World Health Organization, […], and other international bodies. Furthermore, a number of botanists, ethnobiologists, and pharmacologists have argued persuasively that new pharmaceuticals are most likely to be found in native pharmacopoeias.