Endogenous Knowledge about Treatments for Snake Bites in West Africa

Studies of local medical knowledge systems in West Africa have proliferated since the 1950s. The importance of such research stems from the need for scientific knowledge and innovation in medical knowledge and practice. However, still today, equivocal discourse on the validity or non-validity of local African knowledge continues.

This research focuses on the treatment of snakebites in West Africa, seeking to understand how populations have organized their knowledge around snakebite-related diseases. In particular, we will:

  1. study endogenous therapies and the epistemology of endogenous knowledge in the cases of snakebites
  2. discover areas of practice and epistemology through a comparative approach

In Burkina Faso, one of the countries on which this study is focused, a review of the literature reveals that very few studies analyze the relationship between snakebites and the organization of local knowledge. Research on knowledge systems related to the treatments of snakebites could allow innovations in medical knowledge and practices.

The qualitative methodology of this project is interdisciplinary, combining history (which will enable us to go back in time and to the origins of endogenous knowledge systems and practices) with ethnomedicine (which will allow us to discover endogenous knowledge systems and practices for the treatment of diseases) and biomedicine. In doing so, a particular interest of this project will be the comparison between different representations of "diseases" caused by snakebites and their scientific context ("modern" science, "local" knowledge, biomedicine...) in the present and in the past.