Graduation Year


Document Type




Degree Granting Department


Major Professor

S. Elizabeth Bird, PhD

Co-Major Professor

Roberta D. Baer, PhD

Committee Member

Pratyusha Basu, PhD

Committee Member

Laurence G. Branch, PhD

Committee Member

David Himmelgreen, PhD


indigenous knowledge, Indian, faith healers, allopathy, Hinduism


The Rathwa of Kadipani village are adivasi (original inhabitants, tribe) residing in a rural part of Gujarat State, India. Primarily farmers, the Rathwa live in an area where development-related projects, such as mineral mining and damming on the Narmada River, are increasingly impacting their livelihood, health status, and quality of life. The local economy is impacted by uncertainty regarding access to water from the Narmada River, concerns related to the extraction of minerals from a mine in Kadipani, and economic issues that arise when the primary wage earner of the household becomes ill.

This dissertation addresses Rathwa health care practices, relying primarily on social constructivism and a political economy framework. I also discuss feminist theory when I analyze women, health care, and spirituality, and modernization theory when I consider the impact of development on health. This study examines the intersection of ethnomedical health care practices (e.g., indigenous/folk medicine/faith healing, Ayurveda and homeopathy) with biomedical/allopathic health care practices. The pluralistic health care system available to the Rathwa in both Kadipani and Kawant villages offers services from private and public sectors, resulting in individuals and families in search of treatment frequently accessing multiple health care providers of both the ethnomedical and/or biomedical categories simultaneously. Treatments for illness may include a visit to a Bhoua (faith healer), a public clinic provided by the government, and home remedies prepared from locally available medicinal plants.

This junction of ethnomedical and biomedical health care practices impacts family health care seeking behavior and decision making in a number of ways. With a variety of health care providers available, people will go from one provider to the next until they receive the treatment they are requesting (e.g., antibiotics, injections, etc.), or their symptoms dissipate and they are healed. This practice may result in conflict with certain aspects of Rathwa history, tradition, and cultural practices, such as forgoing a visit to the indigenous healer, a practice which is considered part of Rathwa tradition, and going straight to the public clinic for prescription medications, or giving birth in the public hospital instead of using a traditional birth attendant at home.