W006
Ethnographies of medical encounters between Europe and Asia

Convenors:
Mona Schrempf (Humboldt University)
Geoffrey Samuel (University of Sydney)
Chair:
Mona Schrempf, Geoffrey Samuel
Discussant:
Elisabeth Hsu, University of Oxford
Format:
Workshops
Location:
Queens 1.18
Start time:
19 September, 2006 at 11:30
Session slots:
3

Short abstract:

Cross-cultural transactions between European and Asian medical systems entail complex processes of transfer, adaptation and integration. We invite contributions that specifically use ethnographic methods to elucidate the complexity of medical encounters between Europe and Asia.

Long abstract:

Cross-cultural transactions between European and Asian medical systems entail complex processes of transfer, adaptation and integration. Only recently, they have become the object of academic inquiry in medical anthropology and social sciences in general. Whereas the medical sciences are usually most interested in the practical application of medicine, such as in clinical trials, and issues of efficacy, standardisation and quality control of Asian traditional medicine, anthropologists look for social and cultural constructions in these encounters between West and East, Europe and Asia. Thus, in Europe we experience a growing interest in Asian medicines and the testing of their efficacy through clinical trials modelled on biomedical standards. Yet, at the same time, market demands foster a commodification of authentic Asian or Oriental medicines in Europe, transforming them into important techniques for wellness, esoteric and other therapeutic means that are usually removed from their original philosophical roots and emic empirical frameworks. Ayurvedic massage, acupuncture and more recently Tibetan medicine thus became alternative medicines in the West, or so-called CAMs (complementary alternative medicine). On the one hand, market demands in Europe also shape Asian medical production policies and techniques influencing local medical contexts, but on the other, biomedicine dominates both European and Asian medical contexts in various ways. We would like to encourage contributions that specifically use the method of ethnography to elucidate the complexity of these medical encounters between Europe and Asia.