W014
From medical pluralism to therapeutic plurality: medical anthropology and the politics of diversity, knowledge, and experience from multiple perspectives

Convenors:
Leonardo Menegola (University of Milano Bicocca)
Uršula Lipovec Čebron (University of Ljubljana)
Clara Saraiva (FLUL, University of Lisbon)
Chair:
Chiara Pussetti
Discussant:
Dough Hollan (UCLA)
Location:
15 and 116
Start time:
28 August, 2008 at 9:00
Session slots:
8

Short abstract:

This workshop will explore the tensions and complementarities between biomedicine and 'other' medicines, and the ways in which social representations and cultural constructions embedded in the encounters between "the West and the Rest" migrate, transform, or collide at the intersections of emergent scenarios of contemporaneity. We will outline dynamics of exclusion and inclusion between biomedical and alternative practitioners of healing. We will examine the interactions occurring between distinct discursive practices and systems of meaning relating to symptoms, illnesses, models of affliction and wider socio-moral notions of personhood and the Self. We will focus on the embodiments, feelings, and sensations through which people make sense of suffering, illness, and healing, and on the political and performative meaning of such experiences. We will explore the strategic references made to "experience" by non-hegemonic medicines that rely on the creation of experiences of intersubjectivity and mutuality between healers and patients.

Long abstract:

This workshop will explore different aspects of the tensions and complementarities between biomedicine and 'other' medicines. Through ethnographic evidences, we will contribute to the study of diverse practices of suffering and healing by focusing on how social representations and cultural constructions embedded in the encounters between "the West and the Rest" migrate, transform, or collide at the intersections of emergent scenarios of contemporaneity. At the crossroad of medical pluralism and therapeutic plurality, human experiences, social representations, and culturally embedded practices linked to "suffering" will reveal a vast ethnographic territory, across which migrational processes will constitute one among the transversal concerns of this workshop. We will outline dynamics of exclusion and inclusion between biomedical and alternative practitioners of healing in contexts of education and associations; and within processes of legalization in institutional practices and formal professionalization. We will examine the interactions occurring between distinct discursive practices and systems of meaning—as carried out and reproduced by different social actors—to investigate socially relevant ways in which diverging, pre-established schemes and representations interact with reference to symptoms, illnesses, models of affliction and wider socio-moral notions of personhood and the Self. By looking at the embodiments, feelings, and sensations through which people make sense of suffering, illness, and healing, we will focus on the political and performative meaning of such experiences as forms of resistance, opposition, defence from systems of hegemony, and on the politically authorized, socially recognized ways of performing both sufferance and healing. We will explore the strategic references made to "experience" (e.g. through the mundane world of sensing) by non-hegemonic medicines that rely on the creation of experiences of intersubjectivity and mutuality between healers and patients. Section 1 (PAPERS No. 1 to 5): Cultural Diversity as Knowledge and Practice. Chair: Chiara Pussetti This section deals with the biomedical discourse on diversity and cross-cultural communication and, at the same time, the absence of discussion on underestimated aspects of this relationship. By focusing on the building of knowledge and the articulation of criteria of efficacy (clinical trials, standardization and quality control of other "traditional" medicines,) we will explore the social use of diversity in public health policies, and we'll explore the boundaries between culture and affliction by analyzing the articulation of different therapeutic theories and practices among multiple social actors. Section 2 (PAPERS No. 6 to 12): The Medical Anthropology of "Experience:" Illness, Suffering, Healing. Chair: Melissa Park This section will explore the socio-political meanings of "experience" in different contexts of medical hegemony and pluralism. "Experience" identifies and differentiates both suffering and healing practices; it enters mechanisms of efficacy, apparatuses of techniques and the practical knowledge required to administer them. We will examine "who" experiences suffering, unease, processes of healing; "who or what" manages or interprets such experiences and administrates the dynamics of cure; and how social and medical systems locally structure (translate, legitimize, reshape, deny) particular facets of experience. Section 3 (PAPERS No. 13 to 18): Politics and Challenges of Integration. Chair: Carlotta Bagaglia This section introduces a critical medical anthropological discussion of various concepts of medical pluralism, and aims to draw ethnographic evidence on the ways in which biomedicine can coexist and/or interweave with other medicines. From both an applied and a theoretical perspective, the analysis will mainly focus on different strategic perspectives of actors and institutions involved, such as: users, complementary and traditional healers, medical professionals, health-care institutions, insurance companies, etc, as well as on the complexity of their mutual relationships in various ethnographic contexts, especially in Latin America. Section 4: Round Table: Healing as Plurality, Politics, and Experience The discussants, Chairs, and convenors of the workshop will partake in a final Round table. The discussion will address "diversity" in its medical anthropological declination, both as migration of particular individuals and groups, and as encounter (hybridization, borrowing, translation, struggle) between different practices of suffering and healing. We will gaze at cultural diversity and medical pluralism through a multiple perspective and threefold socio-cultural lens: as a cultural construction, as a social strategy, and as a political performance. We will adopt multiple perspectives (e.g. focusing on institutions, cultural heterogeneity, and the particularities of experiences of falling sick, being ill, returning to a 'sense of ordinary life'). We will thus contribute to the social and political analysis of the epistemological heterogeneity of socially co-habiting healing systems, issues of therapeutic (or scientific) efficacy, and dynamics of social inclusion and exclusion. Finally, we will reflect on the epistemological challenges of an increasingly "pluralist" Medical Anthropology, where plural scenarios and objects give way to plural-synthetic conceptual frameworks and methods.

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