Narratives on Obliging Worms: Childhood Illness in Rural Garhwal

Journal of the Anthropological Survey of India, 66(1-2): (1-18), 2017

Narratives on Obliging Worms: Childhood Illness in Rural Garhwal

P. C. Joshi
Department of Anthropology, University of Delhi, Delhi

Abstract
As against the commonly held scientific viewpoint, in many cultures, the intestinal worms are considered friendly and helpful. One can dichotomize cultures into worm-philic and worm-phobic, wherein the former subscribing to ‘assisted digestion’ theory naming intestinal worms as playing crucial role in digestion while the latter considering intestinal worms as unworthy parasites needing extermination from the intestines. The paper examines the worm-philic ethos of inhabitants of Pauri Garhwal through the narratives of two women healers. It also presents the folk model of worm beliefs. The implications of worm-philic beliefs are examined within the context of vulnerabilities of early childhood and the young Garhwali mothers.

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