Indian medicine: Between state and village

Workshop dates: 23 - 24 June 2016

Convenor: Dr Maarten Bode, Adjunct Research Faculty at the Department of Anthropology, University of Amsterdam, the Netherlands, and Adjunct Faculty at the Institute of Trans-disciplinary Health Sciences and Technology, Bangalore, India

Please have a look at the program for more information on the presenters and their presentations.

The workshop takes the sensibilities of Indian medicines as its point of departure. Themes to be discussed in the workshop are: Indian medicines as tangible and intangible heritage; Indian medicines as health security for the poor; Indian medicines as identity markers (for the nation, for local communities, and for Westerners in search of Indian spirituality). An important cross cutting theme is the quest for legitimation and acceptance. For example by linking Indian medicines to the global project of Evidence Based Medicine and to Indian knowledge systems. Contributions from medical anthropology (the actors’ point of view) and Science and Technology Studies (social construction of medical knowledge) are especially welcome. However papers from other theoretical orientations are also greeted.

An important question is if and how Indian nationalist politics affect the recognition, ownership, and management of the wide spectrum of traditional medicines in contemporary India. Social-cultural research shows that on the national level we see debatable - either unintentional or intentional - attempts at reifying, ossifying and nationalizing Indian medicines as Ayurveda. The suggestion is that Ayurveda as India’s national medicine is a discrete medical system and that it provides the codified substrate for the many local forms of herbal based Indian medicine practiced to-day. Though this perspective has been contested as an act of appropriation, labelling local forms of Indian medicine as Ayurveda can also be seen as an act of empowerment. What is needed is a dialogue between two important stakeholders: the Indian state and local communities. By discussing the interactions between global, national and local forms of Indian medicine the workshop wants to contribute to such a dialogue.

The meeting, organized by the International Institute for Asian Studies, the Netherlands, will take the form of a series of discussions of new academic papers that are submitted in advance of the workshop. A peer-reviewed selection of the (revised) papers will subsequently be prepared for publication in the scholarly journal Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity (IASTAM, Brill).


For enquires about the workshop, please contact Ms. Martina van den Haak at m.c.van.den.haak@iias.nl