RELIGION
12/29/2014 03:13 pm ET Updated Dec 29, 2014

Wole Soyinka, First African To Win The Nobel Prize In Literature, On Medicine And Spirituality

ASSOCIATED PRESS

Even though the term “placebo effect” was coined in 1920 and the phenomenon itself has been studied since the 18th century, only recently have scientists begun to understand the full extent to which our minds affect our bodies. Of course, long before Western medicine was able to define and demonstrate it empirically, the world’s ancient practitioners of traditional medicine have been reaping the benefits of this integrative mind-body approach to healing for centuries, if not millennia — under the dismissive, even scornful eye of the Western medical establishment. But in addition to betraying the very basic tenet of science as a discipline propelled not by the arrogance of what we know but by the humility of what we don’t — by the “thoroughly conscious ignorance” that transmutes curiosity into knowledge — such attitudes are mired in more complex sociocultural forces and power dynamics, especially in societies torn between two worlds by the soul-splitting aftermath of colonialism.

That’s precisely what Wole Soyinka — the first African writer awarded the Nobel Prize in Literature — explores in his altogether excellent collection Of Africa.

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