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Anthropol Med. 2010 Apr;17(1):1-26. doi: 10.1080/13648471003602566.

Taking the MINI to Mustang, Nepal: methodological and epistemological translations of an illness narrative interview tool.

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Department of Anthropology, Dartmouth College, Hanover, NH 03755, USA.


Illness narratives and explanatory models have been a research focus for the discipline of medical anthropology for decades. In recent years, standardized qualitative research tools have been developed to elicit illness narratives as a means of conducting socio-cultural analysis and as a springboard for health-related interventions - particularly with reference to communities experiencing rapid socioeconomic transition or those in which trauma has been experienced. Nevertheless, gaps persist in terms of the latent methodological and epistemological challenges of translating and transplanting such research tools to new contexts. This paper chronicles the adaptation of the McGill Illness Narrative Interview (MINI) for use in the culturally Tibetan region of Mustang, Nepal. This analysis is based on 44 in-depth interviews using an adapted version of the MINI to elicit narratives about experiences of illness. The MINI proved to be a compelling research tool, particularly in terms of engaging research assistants in the field. Yet its deployment in a context where distinctions between individual and social suffering can be blurred, where the dichotomization of 'religion' and 'medicine' makes little sense, and where understandings of causality are rooted in the concept of karma, revealed the extent to which the MINI - and, by extension other such qualitative research tools - emerges from particular models of narrative construction and assumptions about the relationships between self and other, cause and effect. Concluding recommendations are made regarding the adaptation of this tool to other settings.

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