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Title: Folk Etiology among the Baka, a Group of Hunter-Gatherers in the African Rainforest
Authors: SATO, Hiroaki
Keywords: Baka hunter-gatherers
Folk etiology
Forest animals
African rainforest
Issue Date: Mar-1998
Publisher: The Center for African Area Studies, Kyoto University
Journal title: African study monographs. Supplementary issue.
Volume: 25
Start page: 33
End page: 46
Abstract: This paper addresses the structure of traditional medical belief and knowledge with special reference to etiology among the Baka hunter-gatherers living in the tropical rainforest from northwestern Congo to southeastern Cameroon. A group of the Baka in northwestern Congo has 89 folk illness terms. The illnesses are classified into three groups by the type of cause. The first group consists of 8 illnesses which develop exclusively due to specific causes such as contacts with various pathogenic substances, violation or sorcery. The second group consists of 55 illnesses which develop spontaneously or due to specific causes. The third group consists of 26 illnesses which develop purely spontaneously. In the Baka folk etiology, the naturalistic notion that some natural entities are responsible for the occurrence of illnesses is more predominant than the personalistic notion that some agents, such as sorcerers, evil spirits, and ghosts, cause illnesses. Among various pathogenic substances, animals are major pathogens. Forest animals, whose bodily shapes or behavior look strange or unusual to human beings, seem to provide good materials to the Baka who wish to explain and understand what causes illnesses, an abnormal state in body and mind, without warning. The Baka people think that almost all of their folk illnesses may develop spontaneously too. Their search for pathogenic substances of their illnesses seems neither for the purpose of removing it nor cutting off contacts with it, but for the purpose of seeking specific remedies.
DOI: 10.14989/68393
Appears in Collections:25 (Man and Nature in Central African Forests)

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