Markku Hokkanen
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Knowledge, secrecy and contestation
Early medical encounters, c.1859–c.1930
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The establishment of a permanent medical mission in Malawi in 1875 marked a major change in Malawian-European medical encounters. Medical missionaries genuinely sought to provide a Christian alternative to African medicine that would demonstrate the superiority of Western medicine and thus that of Christian civilisation as a whole. Europeans thought that African secrecy limited their inquiries into indigenous medicines. Western explorers and early settler-writers can be characterised as colonial intellectuals whose role was to produce knowledge about health, disease and medicines in African localities. African women were largely absent from the British search for African medicines. Even early performances of Western medicine and surgery were at once both public and controlled, open and closed. Medical performances involving anaesthesia and amputation may well have generated less positive interest than fear. Some alterations and hybridisation resulted from Malawian-European encounters with new and unfamiliar conceptions of medicine and disease.

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