Dealing with Disorder

ISBN 978-3-89645-082-1

Dealing with Disorder

Traditional and Western Medicine in Katutura (Namibia)

Author: Debie LeBeau. Series edited by: Wilfrid H.G. Haacke.

Series: NAS Namibian African Studies Volume 6

18 pp. Roman, 301 pp.
3 maps, 13 b/w photos, 49 tables, numerous charts, appendix
Text language(s): English
Format: 160 x 240 mm
510 g
€ 49.80

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The present study points out the traditional and western Public Health in the Namibian township Katutura near Windhoek. Because of its multiculturality and the disposability of both western and of diverse traditional methods of treatment, the author has the possibility to carry out comparative investigations.

Based on her dissertation (2000, PhD thesis, Rhodes University, Grahamstown / Republic of South Africa) and the corresponding field studies, Debie LeBeau works out qualitative and quantitative sources in her work. Apart from western medical scientists and traditional healers also several patients acted as her informants which reported their experiences with both health systems.

The book contains a detailed description of the socio-cultural background of Katutura and Namibia and examines thoroughly both the behaviour of the patient against the two possible health systems and the social and spiritual background of the deseases.

In the extensive appendices the methods of research are described, seven traditional healers are introduced, an interview with inhabitants of Katutura is documented and case studies about the application of traditional medicine are presented.

Under these links you will find further studies of  traditional beliefs and healing practices in Africa and Asia:

Accompanying material:



The book provides an excellent overview of issues surrounding traditional and Western health care in postcolonial Namibia and presents LeBeau’s own research, which [...] reflects the complexities inherent in the topic. [...] The analysis of survey data may be cumbersome, but other raw data–specifically, the case studies used as examples in the text and the more detailed accounts in the appendixes–provide a rich layer of complex information and allow the informants’ stories to be heard in their own words. In these ways, Dealing with Disorder offers both an interesting account of health-seeking behaviors in a modern pluralistic context and a valuable transparency regarding the creation of anthropological knowledge through fieldwork.

Catherine Collett in African Studies Review, 47/3, 2004, 201-202

Der Autorin gelingt es, in mehrperspektivischer Weise (Funktions-) Störungen (disorders) in den Blickpunkt zu rücken, ohne gleichzeitig eine bewertende Unterteilung in krank versus gesund zu machen. Darin liegt die Stärke des Buches.

[Vollständiger Text / Complete review:]

Susanne von Daniels in Afrikanistik-online,, 1-5

The book presents a very useful overview of the wide range of treatments available across diverse cultural settings. It pays particular attention to the intricacies involved in how people negotiate the different health care sections as they seek and make decisions concerning health and illness in a post-colonial and multi-ethnic location of Katutura. [...] “Dealing with Disorder” is [...] the first of its kind in Namibia and presents original anthropological knowledge for those interested issues concerning the interplay between a variety of health care modalities in a township in Namibia.

Diana Gibson in Medische Antropologie, 20/1, 2008, 184-185

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