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Familiar Medicine

Everyday Health Knowledge and Practice in Today's Vietnam

David Craig

Publication Year: 2002

One of the first medical ethnographies to be written on contemporary Vietnam, Familiar Medicine examines the practical ways in which people of the Red River Delta make sense of their bodies, illness, and medicine. Traditional knowledge and practices have persisted but are now expressed through and alongside global medical knowledge and commodities. Western medicine has been eagerly adopted and incorporated into everyday life in Vietnam, but not entirely on its own terms. Familiar Medicine takes a conjectural, interdisciplinary approach to its subject, weaving together history, ethnography, cultural geography, and survey materials to provide a rich and readable account of local practices in the context of an increasingly globalized world and growing microbial resistance to antibiotics. Theoretically, it draws on current critical and cultural theory (in particular applying Pierre Bourdieu's work on habitus and practical logics) in innovative but approachable ways. David Craig addresses a range of contemporary fascinations in medical anthropology and the sociology of health and illness: from the trafficking of medical commodities and ideas under globalization to the hybridization of local cultural formations, knowledge, and practices. His book will be required reading for international workers in health and development in Vietnam and a rich resource for courses in cultural geography, anthropology, medical sociology, regional studies, and public and international health.

Published by: University of Hawai'i Press


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Title Page, Copyright

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Acronyms and Abbreviations

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p. vii

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pp. ix-xv

Vietnam is feeling the effects of yet another incursion of rogue winds from the outside. The harbingers of globalization—commodities and technologies—slip easily across Vietnam’s official borders, but once inside, their reception is by no means passive. ...

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1. Place

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pp. 1-35

Writ small, and local, the many logics of “rational drug use” seem more mundane than perverse.
A small girl calls across a glass display case from the street side of a house-front pharmacy. Immediately behind the case is a family’s front room: heavy, ornate carved chairs, a big altar...

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2. North, South, East, and West: Cultural Formations of Vietnamese Medicine

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pp. 36-66

Writing in relation to common “body sense” in contemporary China, Zito and Barlow note that “common sense doesn’t just happen; it is generated under specific conditions of inequity, sustained over long periods, benefiting some people more than others. ...

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3. An Ethnography of Health and Illness in Northern Vietnam

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pp. 67-102

Listening to body talk is a basic working technique for medical ethnographers anywhere. In Vietnam, body talk is a prime element in the everyday passing of time—showing off autodidact knowledge, giving and receiving advice on food and medicine, responding to complete strangers...

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4. Traditional Household Medicine

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pp. 103-122

The easy currency enjoyed by traditional remedies in popular memory reveals an immediacy of practical use, even as it conceals profound change. Ten, and especially twenty years ago, many Vietnamese depended almost entirely on everyday household remedies for treating all but the...

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5. Familiar Medicine Antibiotics in Market and Culture

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pp. 123-160

The popular pharmacy of antibiotics in Vietnam might be described as an ongoing contest of incompatible concerns and unreliable authority. This chapter seeks to evoke some of the polyvocality and pluralism of popular pharmaceutical knowledge and practice, and to capture...

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6. The Patterning of Medical Choice

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pp. 161-188

Choice of medical care is not a simple matter of complying with some universal rationality that prescribes precisely what needs to be done. Rather, it is a complex negotiation between systemic biomedical knowledge (as accessed from doctors and pharmacists) and the family’s...

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7. Local and Global Pharmacy Governance: The King’s Law Stops at the Village Gate?

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pp. 189-216

The international regulation of pharmacy is highly contested, fought over in several contradictory ways by numerous different interest groups. Vast sums of money are at stake, and there are clear instances of market failure to deliver socially optimal outcomes. ...


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pp. 217-253


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pp. 255-261


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pp. 263-280


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pp. 281-287

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About the Author

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p. 288

David Craig teaches on the sociology of health and medicine and international social policy at the University of Auckland, New Zealand. His interests range widely over anthropology and medical sociology, social theory, health and well–being, governance and development, and...

E-ISBN-13: 9780824862473
Print-ISBN-13: 9780824824747

Publication Year: 2002

OCLC Number: 52764000
MUSE Marc Record: Download for Familiar Medicine

Research Areas


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Subject Headings

  • Globalization.
  • Red River Delta (Vietnam) -- Social life and customs.
  • Public health -- Vietnam -- Red River Delta.
  • Materia medica -- Vietnam -- Red River Delta.
  • Ethnobotany -- Vietnam -- Red River Delta.
  • Traditional medicine -- Vietnam -- Red River Delta.
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