EASA, 2010: EASA2010: Crisis and imagination

Maynooth, 24/08/2010 – 27/08/2010


Complementary and alternative medicines and biomedicine in chronic diseases: what do we learn from the margins?

Location Callan CS2
Date and Start Time 27 Aug, 2010 at 11:30


Aline Sarradon-Eck (Université Paul Cézanne, Aix-Marseille 3) email
Patrice Cohen (University of Rouen) email
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Long Abstract

Observations and analysis of medical anthropologists have stressed on the complex interactions between conventional and unconventional medicines in chronic diseases. The dominant position of the biomedicine is shaping the practices' legitimacy according to political, medical and scientific agendas in each country. The notion of Complementary and Alternative Medicines (CAM) recently used in the medical sphere shows a new trend in the biomedical system to open it to complementary approaches. But the notion of CAM brings a binary system centred on the biomedical paradigm in identifying the acceptable approaches to complement conventional treatment and the non-acceptable one as alternative to official ones.

We propose here to consider the margins of the biomedical system as a floating sphere where the two types of approaches exist together. It is proposed to bring first-hand field illustrations and proposals of new analysis to these complex relationships between conventional and unconventional cure and care of chronic diseases bringing an anthropological and theorical framework. Here are below some preliminary questions:

What are revealing these margins for the biomedical system and for the unconventional practices? Are they acting to change (deeply?) the biomedical system? Are the unconventional practices getting a better recognition to be used in biomedical institutions? What are bringing the double perspectives of conventional and unconventional practiced by medical doctors for the medical system and for the cure of the patients? Is there any common (and non only complementary) therapeutic space where borders between biomedicine and CAMs get confused (reorganization, acculturation, crisis, synthesis, syncretism, etc.)?

Discussant: Anita Hardon

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.


Turning points on the way to health

Author: Brigitte Leitner (University of Vienna)  email
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Long Abstract

In my lecture I am going to present an action research project (french tradition), which is based on a biographical accessment. It is the analysation of the combination of two therapeutic systems, from different worlds, as used by me, a former cancer patient.

After a crisis period spanning nine months, during which I employed alternatively both the biomedicine in Austria and the oriental medicine in Uzbekistan, I realized five turning points. With these points I proceeded with my research, having them as objectives, finding answers to the following questions:

1) Which medicine is right for me?

2) To whom should I go for support?

By receiving feedback during the process from my professor and using the theory Salutogenese (Aaron Antonovsky) as well as medical anthropologycal theories to analyse the turning points, I am going to work out the answers.

The care-providers at the margins of the conventional medicine

Author: Aline Sarradon-Eck (Université Paul Cézanne, Aix-Marseille 3)  email
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Long Abstract

Introduction of unconventional medicines in public hospitals reflects transformations in the health care system: ways of CAM's admission, new forms of care practices, new status of professionals.

This communication presents a case study (made in 2007-2008) of a specialized clinic in which so-called "spiritual healings" are practiced. This only clinic in France in a University Hospital proposes cares - which can be described as CAM - to patients, their family and health professionals, and leads a reflection on the patterns of introduction on such practices in hospital environment.

Case study shows underlying institutional and social stakes of the integration of CAM. Different processes of legitimacy of theses practices are defended by institutional actors opened to their integration among conventional cares: to link science and tradition, to justify by self and professional experience, to come within a local professional culture, to adjust to institutional norms, to secularize spiritual healings.

Preventive approaches to health of French ayurveda therapists: An "complementary" inscription with biomedicine?

Author: Nicolas Commune (University of Rouen)  email
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Long Abstract

In contemporary medical pluralism, the relationships between non-conventional medicines and biomedicine seem to be redefined, questioning a new angle of this relationship often studied in terms of biomedical dominance. However, the boundaries between medical systems, far from be airtight, are rather porous and permeable, as shown by the scientific and institutional recognition of increasingly sharp unconventional therapies, the opening of biomedicine to the concepts of "holism" or "well being", or the inclusion of some of these therapies in biomedical services.

Ayurvedic medicine, as it is practiced today in France, has complex relationships with biomedicine. If some plants from the Ayurvedic pharmacopoeia have been the subject of biomedical research and are now returning in the composition of certain drugs, its practitioners offer a more preventive approach, based on adopting a healthy lifestyle, diets, which they see as complementary to the biomedical approach. This positioning on wellbeing and prevention comes in resonance with certain biomedical practices, scientific vocabulary is recaptured by the therapists, which makes it all the more blurred the outlines of such prevention. How consider this relation between ayurveda and knowledge on preventing at the margins of biomedicine? Can we see a continuum between these approaches of prevention, common therapeutic spaces between conventional and unconventional practices? And especially how understand these relationships in terms of legitimacy, redefinitions of health, and re-appropriation and circulation of medical knowledge?

This paper aims to understand these new therapeutic spaces, particularly through the positioning of Ayurveda French therapists on prevention. It will start to focus on the reconstruction of knowledge about health by a traditional deterritorialized medicine, then identify and analyze these common therapeutic spaces, often presented by practitioners in terms of continuity and complementarity with biomedical approaches.

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At the margins of paradigms in medicines: treatments and research in chronic diseases in China today

Author: Evelyne Micollier (IRD (French Research Institute for Development))  email
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Long Abstract

The health care system in China appears as a paradigmatic case-study to question binary labelisation and categorization such as conventional versus unconventional medicines, or CAM (Complementary and Alternative Medicines) versus biomedicine. The analysis of China's model revealing 'blurred' borders in paradigms helps in critically approaching the margins of biomedical and other systems, and in identifying key structural and conjectural features of an emerging 'floating sphere' in medical knowledge and practice. Heuristically for an anthropological perspective which is fundamentally comparative, a new trend to open its doors to complementary approaches emerges globally in the biomedical system: this trend notably gains grounds in treatment and care schemes designed for chronic diseases such as cancers, HIV/AIDS-related diseases, and in palliative care. I propose to discuss those issues on the basis of a study currently conducted in China about HIV/AIDS treatments and research schemes whose main patterns can be applied to other chronic diseases.

On Buah Merah and Virgin coconut oil: an exploratory study of complementary medicine use among people living with HIV/AIDS in West Java

Author: Anita Hardon (Amsterdam Institute for Social Science Research, University of Amsterdam)  email
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Long Abstract

This paper focuses on the use of complementary medicine in HIV/AIDS. Ethnographic fieldwork on treatment practices of people living with HIV/AIDS (PLWA) in West-Java shows that a wide range of jamu are used to delay onset of HIV/AIDS, alleviate side-effects of modern AIDS drugs and promote health. AIDS doctors discourage the use of complementary medicines, fearing that they may interfere with the efficacy of AIDS medicines, and support groups of PLWA reinforce this biomedical discourse. Two specific preparations - Buah Mera and Virgin Coconut Oil - are considered particularly potent by our informants. Our analysis of the efficacy claims of these products suggests that they drugs are marketed for treatment of HIV/AIDS, making use of biomedical safety and efficacy claims, and detailed dosage advice. Our informants were most ambivalent about the efficacies of these drugs, possibly because they are marketed as 'competitors' for modern AIDS medicines, and not as complementary medicines.

This workshop is closed to new paper proposals.