Accepted paper:

Transforming Traditions


Vivienne Lo (University College, London)

Paper short abstract:

Transforming Traditions is an outreach film project that explores everyday ritual, recipes and techniques as they are preserved and transformed in Asian communities in diaspora. Using multimedia we explore the use of traditional practices in the formation of individual and community identities.

Paper long abstract:

In Europe and America the rise of modern standard medicine on the European model and its reach into everyday life has contributed to a widespread interruption of the transmission of traditional remedies and recipes. The Wellcome Trust funded outreach film project, Asian Remedies, finds that Asian migrant communities and individuals yield an unforeseen depth and quality of information about traditional forms of healthcare. Using innovative data collection techniques: combining interviews with arts and culinary workshops we have revealed the huge potential that lies in the collecting and recording of everyday ritual, recipes and techniques. Individual or community stories are captured on video, in sound recording, or developed through arts installations. In the fifty or so interviews that we have filmed, it is evident that when researching Asian individuals and communities in diaspora, it is necessary to define everyday health care practice broadly. Looking after your health in unfamiliar circumstances involves much more than deciding what illnesses you take to the GP and how you communicate the discomfort you feel. Nutrition, exercise, ritual and religion, figure very largely in the preservation of health. People who find themselves in strange and uncomfortable environments are often deeply conservative about their daily practice, recreating activities from remote times and places. Sometimes there is a direct continuity of that practice, using the same foodstuffs, medicines and rituals that were learnt in their countries of origin, adapted to a new location. But often that practice has to be recreated, or imagined anew from personal or family memories for personal fulfilment or to sustain families and communities. Our film begins to document that tranformation.

panel W006
Ethnographies of medical encounters between Europe and Asia