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Healing ElementsEfficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine$
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Sienna R. Craig

Print publication date: 2012

Print ISBN-13: 9780520273238

Published to California Scholarship Online: September 2016

DOI: 10.1525/california/9780520273238.001.0001

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The Pulse of an Institution

The Pulse of an Institution

(p.48) Chapter 2 The Pulse of an Institution
Healing Elements

Sienna R. Craig

University of California Press

Chapters 1 and 2 describe one day in two ethnographic sites. They show the scope of this ethnography and introduce key characters. They exemplify the book’s central arguments: that efficacy is a biophysical, socioeconomic, and political concept, articulated in specific social ecologies, and that modern “traditional medicine” is tied to global regimes of governance (conservation-development agendas, biomedicine, technoscience, and global pharma) and to localized materia medica and forms of practice. These chapters reveal that it is best to speak of Tibetan medicines (plural, not singular); there is too much diversity in the practices and perspectives to do otherwise. The ethnographic realities presented are distinct but also deeply interconnected. Chapter 1 tracks one day of an amchi, a practitioner of Tibetan medicine. Witnessing an amchi at home and at work shows how social ecologies shape experiences of efficacy and the healing life in a rural place. It also shows how simple dichotomies—tradition/modernity, rural/urban, local/global—are inadequate to describe the lifework of amchi and their patients. Although the protagonists travel only several miles, they move through many worlds and occupy many social and medical roles. This chapter analyzes the ways Tibetan medicine is practiced and supported within a national context that has not officially recognized this healing system. Chapter 1 emphasizes themes including identity, knowledge transmission, and interactions with conservation-development agendas.

Keywords:   Mustang, Nepal, Tibetan medicine and social life, alternative modernities, medical pluralism

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