Markets of Well-being

Navigating Health and Healing in Africa


Health and healing are distinctive domains as far as the pursuit of people’s well-being is concerned. In Africa, both fields have increasingly become subject to monetization and commodification, in short, the market. Based on extensive fieldwork in nine African countries by scholars with diverse academic backgrounds, this volume offers different perspectives on the emerging markets and the way medical staff, patients, households and institutions navigate them in their quest for well-being. By presenting a detailed economic ethnography of this multifacetted process of navigating the market, the book sets a new agenda for research as a result of the current predicaments facing health and healing in African societies.

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Biographical Note

Marleen Dekker, PhD (2004), is a senior researcher in development economics at the African Studies Centre in Leiden. She has worked extensively on social networks and risk-coping strategies in Zimbabwe, Ethiopia and Togo.

Rijk van Dijk, PhD (1992), is an anthropologist and senior researcher at the African Studies Centre in Leiden. His research focuses on the rise of new religious movements in Africa, particularly Pentecostalism, in relation to globalization and transnational connections.

Table of contents

Maps vii
Tables vii
Figures ix
Photographs ix
Boxes x

1 Introduction: Economic ethnographies of the marketization of health and healing in Africa 1
Rijk van Dijk & Marleen Dekker
2 Milking the sick: Medical pluralism and the commoditization of healthcare in contemporary Nigeris 19
Akinyinka Akinyoade & Bukola Adeyemi Oyeniyi
3 Organizing monies: The reality and creativity of nursing on a hospital ward in Ghana 46
Christine Böhmig
4 Market forces threatening school feeding: The case for school farming in Nakuru town, Kenya 79
Dick Foeken, Wijnand Klaver, Samuel O. Owuor & Alice M. Mwangi
5 Dashed hopes and missed opportunities: Malaria control policies in Kenya (1896-2009) 109
Kenneth Ombongi & Marcel Rutten
6 The market for healing and the elasticity of belief: Medical pluralism in Mpumalanga, South Africa 144
Robert Thornton
7 Medicinal knowledge and healing practices among the Kapsiki/Higi of northern Cameroon and northeastern Nigeria 173
Walter E.A. van Beek
8 The commodification of misery: Markets for healing, markets for sickness 201
Nadine Beckmann
9 Individual or shared responsibility: The financing of medical treatment in rural Ethiopian households 228
Marleen Dekker
10 Can’t buy me health: Financial constraints and health-seeking behaviour in rural households in Central Togo 255
André Leliveld, Corine ‘t Hart, Jérémie Gnimadi & Marleen Dekker
11 Marriage, commodification and the romantic ethic in Botswana 282
Rijk van Dijk
List of authors 307


All those interested in healing and biomedical health, health risks and health seeking behaviour in Africa, as well as those interested in medical anthropology.

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