A little bit about my project….

7 06 2011

Hi! My name is Kathleen Ridgeway. I’m a rising Junior at Duke and I am bursting with excitement to be able to conduct a fieldwork project this summer.

After a few more days of frantic packing plus 40 hours of international flights and layovers, I will be in Togo, a small West African nation flanked by Benin and Ghana. For those of you who aren’t particularly familiar with the country, Togo is a sub-Saharan nation with a savannah/tropical climate and a struggling economy – it is classified by the World Bank as “Low Income” and ranks 216th worldwide in GDP. Infectious diseases such as HIV/AIDS, malaria, and yellow fever present a significant health concern for much of the population, in part due to a lack of access to medical facilities and improved sanitation. I will be spending my time in Farendé, a village with a population around 1,500 and located in the northeastern region of the country.

Once I get settled in with my host family and learn my way around Farendé, I will be able to start conducting my research project. My research will explore the various modes of explaining, diagnosing, and treating common infectious diseases in the area, with a particular focus on malaria.

When members of Farendé and surrounding villages need medical attention, they may seek care not only from Farendé’s large health clinic, but also from one of many local traditional healers that practice herbal medicine and spiritual healing. The fact that Farendé is home to both biomedical and traditional healing systems means that diseases can be explained and understood in the context of either system; for example, community members explain malaria as being caused by a range of factors which include overexposure to the sun, drinking unclean water, and involvement with witchcraft. Therefore, the main goal my research is to catalogue the explanations for the etiology of common diseases in Farendé by interviewing traditional healers, community members, and physicians in the clinic.

By gaining a more complete understanding of the way that health and disease are explained in the local community, my research will hopefully find ways in which common but deadly diseases such as malaria can be more effectively addressed, treated, and prevented. Additionally, I hope that my preliminary research will shed light on the complex interactions between the traditional and clinical healthcare systems, and to find ways in which these two systems may collaborate with one another in the future.

I can’t wait to arrive in Togo and start my research project, and I will hopefully be sending in another update (with pictures!) soon!


Thanks to the extensive anthropological fieldwork of my program advisor, Dr. Charles Piot, and to research conducted by Duke students in Farendé and Kuwdé, for much of this background information. 




5 responses

7 06 2011

Safe travels! We can’t wait for more updates from Togo!

9 06 2011

We’re excited to go to Togo along with you(r blog)!

10 06 2011

What a great adventure and opportunity!

21 06 2011
Lisa Chambers

Wonderful Kathleen. Your experience sounds so rich already!

oxoxo from Vashon,

27 06 2011
Cheryl Whitener

Wow, Kathleen! What a great adventure!! I look forward following your blog.

See you in the future!


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