Asian Medicine and Globalization

Asian Medicine and Globalization

Asian Medicine and Globalization

Asian Medicine and Globalization


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.


The chapters in this volume deal with the ways in which bodies of knowledge are manipulated to produce coherence and health, broadly defined. This book focuses on forms of medicine that tend to be 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 health in any one of these places, borrowing ideas from any combination of the others—or from no clearly defined place at all—confounds the boundedness of these national entities. In other words, there is a powerful paradox manifest in the relationship between nationalism and transnationalism. This volume is designed to explore the nature of this paradox as it relates to medical practice and the development of medical knowledge.

Within the rubric of modernity it has become necessary, as Prasenjit Duara puts it, to “rescue history from the nation” (1995). The reason is that the legitimacy and power of nationalism is deeply vested in a particular construction of history. This construction is defined as an objective, authoritative, disinterested account of the past as such. It is, in part, the open-endedness and interpretability of the past that allows for it to be both captured and rescued, defined and redefined, according to different priorities. In this sense history is, simply, a more flexible medium than culture. As anthropologists have pointed out, culture can also be captured and rescued. However, by virtue of present tense, empirical temporality, the capture of culture—its strategic interpretation and manipulation—is often more covert than the capture of history. The heroic rescue of culture is championed overtly by those who claim valuefree objectivity.

Culture and history come together at various points, and some of these points of convergence are much more prone to capture than others. Think of borders—what they mean, when they were drawn, and what the convergence of signification and demarcation means with . . .

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