Methods and Theory in the Anthropology of Healing in South Asia

Panel organisers:

Karin Polit Karin Polit

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Anthony Cerulli
Karin Polit


In the field of Medical Anthropology, it is often particularly challenging to integrate human experience with various, sometimes conflicting, ideas about health and well being. Hence researchers interested in healing traditions have utilized and continue to draw on a range of methods to understand specific healing practices, their efficacy and their entanglement in social and political discourses, frequently working with methodologies from disciplines such as epidemiology, public health, and biomedicine.

Increased access to new technologies, diverse institutional changes in the context of unique healing practices, as well as changing expectations of patients have further complicated the anthropological study of healing over the past decades. In this panel, we propose to discuss new challenges in the research and analysis of healing.

Some of the questions we will address include:

  • How do we study patients' health-seeking decisions and behaviors in a setting like South Asia, where a medical system is usually not only pluralistic but increasingly hybrid as well?
  • How do we account for decisions made by doctors and patients in the context of healing in India, where traditional healing practices of Unani, Tibetan Medicine, and Ayurveda have undergone long histories of institutional changes with the result that even within one tradition a wide range of competing practices are available to patients and physicians?
  • How do we study the healing of so-called mental health issues in the Himalayas, South India, and Sri Lanka, where a range of traditional healing practices exist and are known to be effective yet challenged by the biomedical paradigm and an increased focus on psychological and psychiatric interventions?
Impressions of ICTAM IX

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

Trailer ICTAM IX, 2017