P 16 Subaltern Therapeutics and Reasons of State

The social and political settings in which “Asian medical systems” flourish today are thoroughly plural, but they are not egalitarian.  The nation-states – China, India, Korea, Japan, Russia – that officially recognize “traditional” ways of treating disease and managing illness espouse medical multiculturalism even as they rigidly regulate traditional medicines within national public health regimes.  These operations of rationalizing power marginalize many practitioners, even as they contribute to the production of resistant or alternative formations of healing. Lambert and Mukharji have called these vernacular, fragmentary, yet vitally important approaches to alleviating suffering “subaltern therapeutics.”  

Thriving alongside the (under)funded and (quasi)legitimate specialties of, e.g., Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine, subaltern therapeutics oppose the sober, secular, and reductive reasoning of the state’s administration of plural health services in creative and emergent ways.  

The papers included in this panel examine the practical life of non-standard, little-recognized therapeutic specialties in India, China, and Russia, considering how the regulatory interest of nation-states in traditional medicines affects the inner logics of bone-setting, divination, drug formulation, and other vernacular practices in Asia.

Impressions of ICTAM IX

  • Impressions of ICTAM IX, 2017, by Matthias Burmeister, ICTAM IX Filmteam