Circulations and hegemonies: The Globalization of Asian Medicines

Panel organiser:

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Jean-Paul Gaudilliere


The processes of health globalization have recently attracted much attention from STS scholars. Analysis of the various ways in which biomedical research practices, forms of interventions, regulatory norms or public programs targeting priority disorders have become global have given a central role to the notion of “circulation”, insisting on the need for detailed understanding of the complex interactions at stake when experts, products and tools move from one place to another.

There is little doubt about what has thus been gained: circulations are far from obvious and require considerable work; they do not simply displace entities but change them; globalization only exists through localization and adaptation. One pervading problem of this paradigm is however that it tends to favor the image of a “flat” scene where multiple actors are granted with comparable – if not equal – agency.

In contrast, inquiries emanating from historians and anthropologists of health, often insist on the tensions underlying globalization, arguing for the pervading hegemony of biomedicine, especially when it comes to the contemporary transformation of “traditional” medical knowledge. Focusing on the globalization of Asian medicines, this session will discuss the necessity of articulating the concepts of circulation and hegemony.

The session will present studies of innovation processes located in China and India, which borrow from “local” medical knowledge and seek to grant the use of herbal pharmaceuticals with a global status. What will thus be highlighted is less the straightforward domination of biomedicine than the dialectical relation linking adaptation and alternative on the one hand; national policies, international regulation and regional hegemonies on the other hand.

Impressions of ICTAM IX

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

Trailer ICTAM IX, 2017