Health promotion with indigenous women: the contribution of ethnography on self-care practices among the Munduruku people in the Amazonas State, Brazil

Raquel Paiva Dias-Scopel Daniel Scopel About the authors


Longevity, health, and collective and individual well-being are among the socially shared expectations of the Munduruku people who live on the Kwatá-Laranjal Indian Reservation in Amazonas State, Brazil. Daily life in a cosmos full of beings is surrounded by dangers that threaten these expectations, and whose agencies can result in disease and death. Based on ethnography, through participant observation and narratives, we analyze the self-care practices dedicated to the construction of the Munduruku woman’s body, valuing the perspectives and active role of “lay” persons in this process. These practices begin in pregnancy and extend throughout life in an ongoing process of construction of the body, maintenance of health, and acquisition of skills, marked by interaction between persons of different ages. The focus of Munduruku practices is not the body in the sense determined by the biomedical paradigm, but its participation as a person in social and cosmological relations, through experiences that link body, health, and environment. The Munduruku perspective on this process displays radical differences in relation to modern individualism and the biomedical notion of the body, excessively reductionist. An understanding of the indigenous perspective can help promote improvements in the quality of differentiated care, as recommended by the Brazilian National Healthcare Policy for Indigenous Peoples.

Health of Indigenous Peoples; South American Indians; Medical Anthropology; Women’s Health

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