"Because it works": The ongoing use of “bush medicine” as an alternative therapeutic practice in Guyanese migrant communities

Authors: Michelle Majeed*, University of Toronto
Topics: Medical and Health Geography, Migration
Keywords: therapeutic landscapes, transnational theory, resilience, traditional medicine, health, Guyana, Canada, US
Session Type: Paper
Presentation File: No File Uploaded


This paper situates its inquiry at the intersection of the literature on therapeutic landscapes and transnational theory. While therapeutic landscapes research has largely focused on the healthy features of local places, this paper argues that, for migrants, these landscapes are produced and re-produced globally. Using semi-structured, in-depth interviews with Guyanese migrants in the US and Canada, this paper focuses on the health practices of migrants and how past experiences with the health care system in the country of origin continues to inform the health-seeking behaviours of migrants in the country of settlement. The results reveal that the historical use of traditional “bush medicine” can be understood as a resilient response to inaccessible health care in Guyana at both the personal and community level. The study also finds that the continued use of bush medicine in the migrant communities in Canada and the US is not a result of barriers to health care in the countries of settlement as documented in research concerning other migrant groups. Instead, this continued use of bush medicine constitutes an alternative health practice that is strongly tied to the participants’ perceptions of Guyana as a therapeutic landscape and how this former act of resilience through the act of using bush medicine has become imbedded in the community’s identity. By engaging with both transnational and therapeutic landscape theory, this paper illustrates that through the continued use of bush medicine, Guyana, is simultaneously understood by migrants as both an unhealthy and healthy space.

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