Journal of the Indiana Academy of the Social Sciences

Document Type



This paper discusses the contemporary expression of the personalistic aspects of Jola ethnomedicine. Ethnomedicine pertains to the culturally specific health- associated beliefs and behaviors of a society. Personalistic pertains to medical beliefs and practices that associate disease with direct or intentional factors of a social and supernatural origin. The inherent personalistic aspects of contemporary Jola ethnomedicine are heavily associated with the contemporary religious beliefs and practices of the Jola. In the Gambia, Jola religious beliefs and practices reflect a synthesis of traditional Jola religion and Islam. Contemporary Jola religious beliefs and practices manifest themselves in contemporary Jola ethnomedical beliefs and practices through the use of protective amulets known as jujus. Jujus serve to prevent misfortune, which is often presented in the form of health problems. Jujus are typically inscribed with verses from the Koran and with particular Islamic verses. The use of Islamic verses to address health problems is supported by Hadith, the sayings of the Muslim prophet Mohammed. As a result, the use of protective amulets inscribed with Islamic verses occurs not only in the Gambia but throughout West Africa and the Middle East. Such pervasiveness and continued use of these protective amulets demonstrates the persistence of the personalistic health-associated beliefs and practices as well as their continued relevance among societies experiencing increased exposure to Western medicine.