Anthropology-Kohistani and Paul Farmer Kyle Gayle


Anthropology-Kohistaniand Paul Farmer


TheKohistani Tribe

Modernityhas not fully changed the way people live instead, it is theintroduction of new social, economic and political structures thatchanges these cultures. To explore this thesis, this paper willexplore the changes in the Kohistani tribe and how they influencedtheir cultural integration. Prior to road construction, the KohistaniPeople lived harmoniously and relied on animal husbandry fornourishment and income. Found in the northern parts of Pakistan, theKohistani people had for long remained isolated by the surroundingmountain ranges and lived together in compact and solid villages.They are positioned in a precipitous rocky gorge which has made itdifficult for irrigation forcing them to result to beingpastoralists. Notably, they practiced endogamy and lived closelywhich was the core reason for their strong and cordial relationships.Primarily Buddhists, Kohistani tribe converted to strong SunniIslamists after the religion had penetrated to their region around1000 A.D. Moreover, the tribe does not allow freedom of religionbarring Christianity in their region.

Outstandingly,the construction of Karakoram Highway proved to tremendously impactthe Kohistani. Despite being well structured, access to the modernworld has resulted to gradual change from the Kohistani’s oldculture towards modernity. Accessibility to roads and the outer worldhas affected the Kohistani people socially, politically and more soeconomically. The discussion in this paper will illustrate that themodern world, infrastructure, and globalization have significantchanges in the culture of the Kohistani people.

Thefirst way that the construction of the road system led to culturalintegration is by allowing the tribe people to travel and trade withother communities. The Kohistani tribe was traditionally herders andfarmers therefore they had produce so they could sell in the newlydeveloping markets (Keiser, 1991). This enabled them to share withother communities as they traded. Trade became important to theKohistani, thereby creating a need for more production leading tothe second change.

Thesecond change was the focus of their efforts from herding to potatofarming, as necessitated by the market as a result of good roadsystems. This had a significant consequence of the culture of thepeople. Economic independence amongst community members reduced thecustomary interdependence amongst them resulting to brokenrelationships. They also had to disintegrate from the herding groupsto focus on farming. Traditionally, the culture of the Kohistanitribe was closely knit through cross-kinship herding that broughtseveral groups together (Keiser, 1991). However, as their farmingcontinued, they gradually lost the cross-kinship touch, but theirincomes increased because of trade and their change in economicpotential. As a consequence, the third change in culture wasimminent.

Lastly,preceding road construction, the Kohistani tribe did not believe inusing violence and conflict as a way of solving their Issues.However, due to trade, everybody in the tribe could afford guns, eventhose who were previously poor. Thus, the combination of differentperspectives on violence and buying of arms with trade income createda different culture. Each member of the tribe felt the need toprotect their newly-acquired property which necessitated purchase ofguns. The members could no longer trust each other which led toviolence that gradually changed their culture and introduced theintegration of their culture with the Thull. In addition, tradecreated the need for buying weapons and using them to expand theirland to get more space for farming and herding (Keiser, 1991).

Oneof the interactions by the Kohistani tribe is with the Islamiccommunities which influenced their religious outlook to the Islamicperspectives. Most of their beliefs such as controlling events andusing magic to cure illness have since vanished with newer beliefsand ideologies arising from the integration. The changes in thecultural integration of the Kohistani tribe existed in consequencesthat followed each other. The impact of the construction of the roadsystem by the Pakistani government led to movements of the Kohistanitribe and interaction with other communities (Keiser, 1991).Remarkably, this portrays the changes of culture as a consequence ofthe modern elements of economic integration, such as roadconstruction.

Worksof Paul Farmer

Criticalmedical anthropology is a theoretical approach that applies criticaltheory in studying how exchange of goods and government interventionaffect the aspects of life. Ecological-epidemiological aims toidentify effect of variables in ecological analysis on individualrisks and group rates. The two fields are alike as they aim toidentify, analyze and critique at a large scale the effect of variousactivities, political, economic or epidemiologic, on various aspectsof human life. On the other hand, Interpretivistmedical anthropology does not use a critical theoretical framework toanalyze effects of various activities on aspects of life but ratheruses deductive or inferential measures to explain them. Additionally,it does not perform their analysis directly on data collected butrather on observations made out of the data.

Theworks of Paul Farmer show the extent that human beings can exemplifythe achievement of the three medical anthropology fields. Farmer andhis colleagues in the Partners in Health organization takesignificant steps towards helping people at all cost and to theirmost extreme extents. The application of the three fields of medicalanthropology provides the guidelines for every anthropologist tofollow (Robert &amp Wenzel, 2005). The fields provide the approachesto understand the health of people through studying the culture,cultural symbols, and economic and political impacts on a culture.The discussion in this essay will illustrate the exemplification ofthe works of Paul Farmer in the medical anthropology fields ofecological-epidemiological, critical and interpretivist approaches.

Thework of Farmer and his team shows the importance of applying theecological-epidemiological approach by considering the health factorsthat affect a society. Farmer and his team examine the risk factorsfor a society and make use of the data that help them understand thehealth phenomena of a community. Through the use of such methods,Farmer and the Partners in Health intervene in the most vulnerableand needy cases, such as their Haiti intervention(Kidder,2003).Theapproach of the ecological-epidemiological field of anthropologyprovides anthropologist with frameworks of understanding the threatsto health for a community (Robert &amp Wenzel, 2005). This field isclearly exemplified by the works of Farmer and the Partners inHealth.

Thework of Farmer and the Partners in Health shows the importance ofconsidering the critical field of medical anthropology by evaluatingof political and economic consequences of the areas they visit.Taking the example of their work in Haiti, Farmer took a lot ofsignificance on the economic impact of the earthquakein the Haiti (Kidder, 2003). This mostly influenced Farmer and theteam to provide medical treatment for free in the PIH Hospital thatthey established. This helped the people living in poverty in Haitito access drugs and essential medical care (Kidder,2003).Through the understanding of the economic state and the politicalinability of the country to take care of the injured and poor peoplein Haiti, Farmer was able to establish medical help for the locals.

Moreimportantly, the work of Farmer and the Partners in Healthexemplifies the best way to apply the interpretivist approach ofmedical anthropology to promote health. Farmer understood thecultural beliefs that lead to poor health and illness of people theytreated. For instance, his work in Rwanda was successful because ofhis understanding of the cultural beliefs of the African country(Kidder,2003).According to Robertand Wenzel (2005), theinterpretivist approach, the field focuses on understanding thehealth situation of a society by exploring their diseases as theyrelate to their culture. Through an epic perspective, ananthropologist explores the culture of a society and establishes therelationship between the cultural beliefs, practices, and the healthproblems they face.

Inconclusion, the works of Farmer and the Partners in Health team areextensive and have impacted on several parts of the world that manymedical workers cannot. One of the reasons why Farmer has achievedthis is by applying the essential approaches of medical anthropology.Hence, through the adoption of the epidemiologicalapproach,Farmer understands the risk factors that relate to the community heserves. This critical approach provides the understanding of theeconomic and political aspect of the interpretivist approach whichprovides cultural perspectives of the societies he works at.Therefore, his work provides the most appropriate exemplification ofthe fields of medical anthropology.


Keiser,L. R. (1991). Friendby day, enemy by night: organized vengeance in a Kohistani community:CaseStudies in Cultural Anthropology Series.NewYork:Holt, Rinehart, and Winston Publishers

Kidder,T. (2003). Mountains Beyond Mountains:The Quest of Dr. Paul Farmer, A Man Who Would Cure the World.New York: Random House, 2003

Robert,P., &amp Wenzel, G. (2005). Medical Anthropology: Understandingpublic health.New York: McGraw-Hill International