P31
Healing arts? The arts and aesthetics of medical display

Convenors:
Helen Lambert (University of Bristol)
Harish Naraindas (Jawaharlal Nehru University)
Location:
Convention Centre Lecture Hall-II
Start time:
4 April, 2012 at 8:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

This panel invites contributors to reflect on the complex and changing relations between the artistic and aesthetic dimensions of healing therapies. It will explore the popular and professional 'arts' of medical practice, performance, technologies and advertising at local and global levels.

Long abstract:

Ritual practices directed at healing are often described as having aesthetic appeal; and across Asia, religious performances involving divine possession and healing rituals are often packaged and enacted for tourist consumption as examples of local cultural and artistic tradition. Among anthropologists, successful treatment has been interpreted as essentially related to the aesthetic dimensions of therapeutic practices, through the symbolic enactment of harmony designed to restore order to fractured bodies and selves. The decline of such 'traditional' modes of therapy in favour of biomedicine is frequently lamented as a form of reductionism to the material. In popular culture however, the accoutrements of science become important vehicles for repackaging therapy as modern and efficacious; the handwritten signboards of folk practitioners give way to laminated placards and medical technologies supplement the laying-on of hands for diagnosis. Conversely, images of nature and visual signifiers of ancient wisdom serve as tasteful testimonials of authenticity for new 'traditional' remedies aimed at global markets. This panel invites contributions that explore modern transformations in the relations between therapeutic interventions, 'arts' and 'aesthetics'. We interpret 'display' widely to include everyday medical practices, public performances, product marketing and material representations. Contributors may wish to focus on new varieties of therapeutic performance rebranded as 'folk art'; the essential relations between therapeutic efficaciousness and aesthetic sensibility; the shifting aesthetics of mundane clinical spaces from the contemporary shrine to the private hospital; or visual signifiers in the advertisement, marketing, display or practice of therapeutic interventions and medical products.