Dealing with uncertainty: religious and/vs. biomedical responses to illness, health, and healing

Malgorzata Rajtar (Polish Academy of Sciences)
Dominik Mattes (Freie Universit├Ąt Berlin)
R12 (in V)
Start time:
12 July, 2012 at 11:30
Session slots:

Short abstract:

Despite biomedicine's technological advancement, it still fails to address many physical, mental, and social afflictions. Resurgence in religious healing is a response to precisely this uncertainty. This workshop aims to address entanglements and mutual influence between religion and biomedicine.

Long abstract:

Several authors have persuasively argued that the institutional and conceptual separation of medicine and religion is a historically and culturally constructed heritage of the Enlightenment (Barnes and Sered 2005, Foucault 1973, and Good 1994). They concluded that, though not surprising, a reemergence of religious healing in the twenty-first century remains understudied. Already in the 1970s it was observed that in Western societies "an ever increasing part of human existence" is subjected to biomedical jurisdiction (Zola 1972: 487), a phenomenon which could indicate that religion has been losing ground in the realm of healing. However, despite an ongoing technological advancement and considerable ability to cure or stabilize disease, biomedicine still fails to address many physical, mental, and social afflictions for the concerned. Hence, it has been argued that resurgence in religious healing and the importance of religion in coping with illness is a response to precisely this uncertainty (e.g. Dilger, Burchardt and van Dijk 2010). In dealing with illnesses, some religious groups and individuals entirely reject biomedical services and medications and prefer to rely on healing prayers, while others utilize therapeutic means of both domains in a constant transgression of the constructed boundaries in between. This workshop invites papers that creatively address entanglements and mutual influence between religion and health care/biomedicine as well as religious approaches to sustaining health, healing practices, and dealing with illness in contexts of social transformations and uncertainties of the present.