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Asian Medicine and Globalization

Edited by Joseph S. Alter

Publication Year: 2011

Medical systems function in specific cultural contexts. It is common to speak of the medicine of China, Japan, India, and other nation-states. Yet almost all formalized medical systems claim universal applicability and, thus, are ready to cross the cultural boundaries that contain them. There is a critical tension, in theory and practice, in the ways regional medical systems are conceptualized as "nationalistic" or inherently transnational. This volume is concerned with questions and problems created by the friction between nationalism and transnationalism at a time when globalization has greatly complicated the notion of cultural, political, and economic boundedness.

Offering a range of perspectives, the contributors address questions such as: How do states concern themselves with the modernization of "traditional" medicine? How does the global hegemony of science enable the nationalist articulation of alternative medicine? How do global discourses of science and "new age" spirituality facilitate the transnationalization of "Asian" medicine? As more and more Asian medical practices cross boundaries into Western culture through the popularity of yoga and herbalism, and as Western medicine finds its way east, these systems of meaning become inextricably interrelated. These essays consider the larger implications of transmissions between cultures.

Published by: University of Pennsylvania Press

Series: Encounters with Asia


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1. Introduction: The Politics of Culture and Medicine

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pp. 1-20

The chapters in this volume deal with the ways in which bodies of knowledge are manipulated to produce coherence and health, broadly linked, in practice and the imagination, to specific nations: India,China, England, and the United States most directly, but also Australia,Tibet, Japan, Singapore, and Germany. And yet the manipulation of...

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2. Ayurvedic Acupuncture—Transnational Nationalism: Ambivalence About the Origin and Authenticity of Medical Knowledge

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pp. 21-44

Few if any would argue that medicine is not politicized on a number of levels and that it is deeply permeated by culture and cultural values. Yet medical systems, like the sciences on which they are based, are usually founded on universalist principles of health and healing, defined in pan-human terms and in terms of natural laws that are thought to...

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3. Deviant Airs in "Traditional" Chinese Medicine

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pp. 45-66

Difficulties in rendering into English the Chinese term xie have dogged historians of Chinese medicine working in different historical periods and social/religious contexts. A core meaning of xie is "oblique" or"deviating," not zheng, "physically upright," an opposition frequently invoked in Chinese discourses on morality and early Chinese medical...

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4. Reinventing Traditional Medicine: Method, Institutional Change, and the Manufacture of Drugs and Medication in Late Colonial India

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pp. 67-77

Several themes resurface in accounts of the encounter between so-called traditional systems of Indian medicine and modern allopathic medicine,each of which focuses differently on the politics of knowledge, science,and empire (Petitjean, Jami, and Moulin 1992). In each of these themes,the nation-state most visibly confers an identity on traditional knowledge...

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5. Health and Medicine in British India and the Dutch Indies: A Comparative Study

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pp. 78-87

India and Indonesia provide a striking example of similarity and contrast. In both countries, their famed tropical riches attracted foreign intervention and both fell to colonization. Health was considered crucial in both countries and both had a medical tradition of their own. Western medicine, on the other hand, moved overseas riding the colonial...

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6. Nationalism, Transnationalism, and the Politics of "Traditional" Indian Medicine for HIV/AIDS

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pp. 88-106

Traditional medicine. Complementary medicine. Alternative medicine.Herbal medicine. Complementary alternative medicine. These phrases have been flashing on radar screens of international public health organizations, pharmaceutical companies, and market investors since the late twentieth century and are gaining even more attention in the early...

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7. Mapping Science and Nation in China

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pp. 107-119

The mandate of heaven (tianming) is a Confucian notion that anyone who is successful in seizing the reins of power retains the rightful author ity to rule over China. Across the centuries, many imperial rulers and their contestants invoke tianming to declare each other as morally bankrupt while legitimizing their own form of hierarchy as better. In this...

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8. Sanskrit Gynecologies in Postmodernity: The Commoditization of Indian Medicine in Alternative Medical and New-Age Discourses on Women's Health

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pp. 120-131

The two earliest extant medical compendia in Sanskrit, the Caraka Saṃthitā (circa second century C.E.) and the Suśruta Saṃthitā (circa mid-third century C.E.)1 contain detailed information about women's bodies throughout their pages in various taxonomic and narrative forms, but this information primarily emerges in the śārīra-sthānas (or "chapters on...

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9. China Reconstructs: Cosmetic Surgery and Nationalism in the Reform Era

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pp. 132-150

Most of the contributions to this volume trace the paths followed by local medical practices as they travel across national, regional, and other boundaries. This chapter, however, traces a reverse direction of travel: it describes the transnational development of the field of cosmetic surgery and how it was appropriated into local, everyday practices in China. In...


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pp. 151-162


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pp. 163-176

List of Contributors

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pp. 177-180


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pp. 181-188


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p. 189-189

E-ISBN-13: 9780812205251
Print-ISBN-13: 9780812238662

Page Count: 200
Publication Year: 2011

Series Title: Encounters with Asia