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Original Essays | August 20, 2014

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Other titles in the Oxford Ritual Studies series:

A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church (Oxford Ritual Studies)


A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church (Oxford Ritual Studies) Cover


Synopses & Reviews

Publisher Comments:

Drawing on two years of ethnographic field research among the Navajos, this book explores a controversial Native American ritual and healthcare practice: ceremonial consumption of the psychedelic Peyote cactus in the context of an indigenous postcolonial healing movement called the Native American Church (NAC). The NAC arose in the nineteenth century in response to the creation of the reservation system and increasing societal ills, including alcoholism. The movement is the locus of a cultural conflict with a long history in North America and stirs very strong and often opposed emotions and moral interpretations. Joseph D. Calabrese describes the Peyote Ceremony as it is used in family contexts and federally funded clinical programs for Native American patients. He uses an interdisciplinary methodology that he calls clinical ethnography: an approach to research that involves clinically informed and self-reflective immersion in local worlds of suffering, healing, and normality. Calabrese combined immersive fieldwork among NAC members in their communities with a year of clinical work at a Navajo-run treatment program for adolescents with severe substance abuse and associated mental health problems. There he had the unique opportunity to provide conventional therapeutic intervention alongside Native American therapists who were treating the very problems that the NAC addresses through ritual. Calabrese argues that if people respond better to clinical interventions that are relevant to their society's unique cultural adaptations and ideologies (as seems to be the case with the NAC), then preventing ethnic minorities from accessing traditional ritual forms of healing may actually constitute a human rights violation.

About the Author

Lecturer in medical anthropology, University College London

Table of Contents


Preface: Hard to Swallow: The Challenge of Radical Cultural Differences

PART 1. Anthropological and Clinical Orientations

I Introduction: Peyote, Cultural Paradigm Clash, and the Multiplicity of the Normal

II Expanding Our Conceptualization of the Therapeutic: Toward a Suitable Theoretical Framework for the Study of Cultural Psychiatries

III Clinical Ethnography: Clinically-Informed Self-Reflective Immersion in Local Worlds of Suffering, Healing and Wellbeing

PART 2. Cultural and Personal Healing in the Native American Church

IV The Unfolding Cultural Paradigm Clash: Ritual Peyote Use and the Struggle for Postcolonial Healing in North America

V Medicine and Spirit: The Dual Nature of Peyote

VI The Peyote Ceremony: Psychopharmacology, Ritual Process, and Experiences of Healing

VII Kinship, Socialization, and Ritual in Navajo Peyotist Families

VIII Postcolonial Hybridity and Ritual Bureaucracy in New Mexico: Participant Observation in a Navajo Peyotist Healer's Clinical Program

IX Decolonizing Our Understandings of the Normal and the Therapeutic


Product Details

Calabrese, Joseph D.
Oxford University Press (UK)
Ethnic & Tribal
Religion & Theology | Anthropology of Religion
Native American-General Native American Studies
Publication Date:
2 line drawings
6.2 x 9.4 x 0.6 in 1.106 lb

Related Subjects

History and Social Science » Native American » General Native American Studies
History and Social Science » Politics » General
Metaphysics » Magic Witchcraft and Paganism

A Different Medicine: Postcolonial Healing in the Native American Church (Oxford Ritual Studies) New Hardcover
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