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Hoesing publishes “Kusamira Music in Uganda” book

January 10, 2022

Research that began over 15 years ago has culminated in the publication of “Kusamira Music in Uganda: Spirit Mediumship and Ritual Healing,” by Dr. Peter Hoesing.

Dr. Peter Hoesing
Dr. Peter Hoesing publishes “Kusamira Music in Uganda: Spirit Mediumship and Ritual Healing”

He completed field research in Uganda between 2006 and 2015. Over that time span, Hoesing visited the country five times, living there for a total of nearly two years. Since 2015 he has been working on writing and editing the book.

“When I look through the chapters of this book, I think that’s the story of traditional healing and the music of traditional healing in these places in the world, but the larger story of healers in Uganda is much bigger than that,” Hoesing said.

He worked with two ethno-linguistic groups in two regions – the Baganda and the Basoga –throughout his field research. The people of these two regions use music to craft healing and well-being as social experiences.

“I really wanted to have a perspective on both regions together, so that I would have some opportunities for comparison and contrast, both in terms of how the healing traditions developed, and in comparing musical elements,” he explained.

According to the World Health Organization, Traditional and complementary medicine is what 80% of the developing world relies on as their primary access to health care, Hoesing said.

As demographics continue to shift around the world and in the U.S., Hoesing believes that physicians, medical students, and health systems should pay attention to traditional medicine and arts-based interventions.

A staffer at the South Dakota State Health Department asked Hoesing how this shows up in South Dakota. “One of the best answers I can give to that question is we don’t know enough, and we probably ought to know more.”

This can be accomplished by physicians asking questions and learning what the Hutterites, tribal communities, Horn of Africa communities, and East Asian communities are doing as part of their health care.

In traditional medicine in Uganda, there are many people who fill different roles, who come together to care for a patient’s mind, body, and spirit. There are bone setters and birth attendants, mentalists, who are native psychologists or psychiatrists, spiritualists, who are somewhere between psychologists and clergy, and herbalists, who are plant medicine specialists, Hoesing explained.

The ability for them to treat the whole patient fascinates Hoesing and is something he believes western medicine should also pay attention to.

He has enjoyed bringing this topic and his knowledge into conversations about what it means for rural healthcare in a place like South Dakota with the state health department, medical students, and communities across the state.

“I want people to know that there is a community of highly creative, tremendously resilient healers, who are devoted to their communities in Uganda and that use music in really interesting ways across the entire patient care experience,” Hoesing said.

“Kusamira Music in Uganda: Spirit Mediumship and Ritual Healing” is available for purchase through University of Illinois Press.

There will be a formal book launch at the Karl Mundt Library on Wednesday, January 26 at 3 p.m. in Karl Mundt Library 201.

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