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Authored by: Lenore Manderson , Elizabeth Cartwright , Anita Hardon

The Routledge Handbook of Medical Anthropology

Print publication date:  May  2016
Online publication date:  May  2016

Print ISBN: 9781138015630
eBook ISBN: 9781315794198
Adobe ISBN: 9781317743781


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The Kuna have achieved what very few native peoples have been able to do: adapt to change on their own terms. When I visited Kuna Yala, I saw reminders of this ability all around me: in the way tourism into their territory was regulated, in planning how to confront the effects of global climate change, and in negotiating social change between generations. By and large, young girls choose Western clothes, often wearing shorts or jeans and t-shirts, rather than traditional dress. This image of an older Kuna woman and a young girl reminds me how generational change occurs regardless of our ability to control it. Nonetheless, societies do have the cultural tools to control the rate and extent of how change occurs, and in this control, to maintain a sense of wellbeing. Panama’s Kuna are an example for other indigenous peoples adapting to a rapidly changing and modernized world.

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