How the Akha heal a sick child: The Cooperation of Cosmology, Kinship and Support
The seminar presents the socio-cosmic support received by Akha parents in raising healthy children in twenty-first-century China. Akha life is heavily influenced by the national political environment and economic development, but the core of their tradition continues to define many aspects of life, including those related to childcare and social support. Their cosmological world is perceived as a reservoir of threats and blessings; numerous non-human actors bestow or withdraw favours and support according to humans’ proper or improper behaviours. These rituals, linked to kinship and a communal system of big men, often activate an entire village to take care of a sick child. By highlighting the cosmological dimension of childcare practices, this research innovatively bridges the fields of religious studies and support studies, thereby broadening our definitions of insecurity, support, and care. The discussion on the operating mechanism of Akha’s medical system also contributes a new angle to understand medical pluralism.
Ruijing WANG graduated in Sociology from China University of Political Science and Law in 2007 and obtained an MA degree in Social Anthropology from this same university in 2010. For her master project, she conducted field research among the Akha ethnic minority group in Southwest China, examining their tradition of twin infanticide to have a comprehensive understanding of the local society. From 2011 onwards, she, as a doctoral candidate, worked for the focus group of Kinship and Social Support in China and Vietnam at Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology (Halle/Saale), Germany. She kept engaging with children and childcare among the Akha society to examine the local informal pattern of social support from an inside perspective and received her PhD from Martin Luther University of Halle-Wittenberg in 2016. Now she works at the Institute for Advanced Studies in Humanities and Social Science, Chongqing University. She studies ethnic cosmology, kinship, health and support in Southwest of China.