The missing links: A South African perspective on the theories of health in drama therapy

Publication Type:

Journal Article


The Arts in Psychotherapy, Volume 41, p.302–306 (2014)



African, Community, Disease, Drama therapy, Indigenous, Integration


The following paper is the writer's first attempt to answer the question, “Is drama therapy for the South African”? The writer begins by arguing for a perspective in drama therapy that can fully accommodate the whole South African. It argues for an integration of the already existing traditional health and healing systems in South Africa, with the concepts proposed by drama therapy in its variations. The writer explores the notions of health in the South African context and defines them in relation to the definitions of health proposed by various drama therapy approaches. Other related concepts such as community and disease are defined, thus challenging drama therapy to seek a more holistic approach to health and healing such that the whole South African can be fully accommodated in drama therapy interventions. The writer uses literature from African scholars, philosophers, psychologists and medical doctors as well as from American and European researchers and drama therapists to aid her exploration.

Medical Humanities in Africa

WISER is working to establish the field of medical humanities in South Africa with other partners at Wits and in the region. Medical Humanities took root in the interdisciplinary spaces between social history of medicine, medical sociology, medical anthropology, literary studies, art and film studies, cultural studies, politics, philosophy, legal studies, public health, psychiatry, medical economics and medical ethics. Although initially concerned with contrasting and comparing approaches from the humanities and medical science to themes of health, suffering, therapy, pain and illness, it has grown in ambition to consider the foundational question of what it is to be fully human, inviting debate around vital epistemological problems. The interface of medicine and humanities also demands a broadly interdisciplinary discussion about what constitutes evidence, and this is critical in the formulation of all contemporary political arguments, including health policies. 

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