Medical pragmatism : a study of sickness and healing among the Fūr
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The Fūr live at the heart of Africa, far from the sea and remote from the Sudanese capital, Khartoum. They inhabit small mountain villages on their ancient stronghold, Jebel Marra, and others along the banks of seasonal rivers which flow from the massif; they also live in neighbourhoods of Zalingie.town. Their lives revolve around the land and its produce and the terraced hillsides (up to 2700m) are evidence of their determination to farm their staple food, millet. For some years now, the Fūr have felt the effects of the Sahelian drought and their once green and fertile land is suffering desertification, especially in the more northerly areas. Despite their remoteness, however, the Fūr are very aware of the process of modernization in Sudan and wish to participate in it. This study aims to give an ethnographic account of the Fūr people and their system of medicine, focussing specifically on sickness and its cause, the conduct of sickness and the practice of medicine by the numerous practitioners of country and modern medicine to be found in Darfur - the land of the Fūr, now the most westerly region of Sudan. The Fūr are Muslims and their most renowned and respected practitioners of medicine are the feqis - students and teachers of the Qur'an - who use the holy word, written and spoken, dissolved in water and in the form of smoke, as prophylaxis and therapy for almost any ailment. However, despite the reputation of Fūr feqis throughout Sudan, the Fūr themselves are remarkably pragmatic in their explanation of sickness and generally show a preference to take advantage of modern medical drug therapy,if this is readily available,when they personally experience sickness.