Healing Powers and Modernity: Traditional Medicine, Shamanism, and Science in Asian Societies

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What is the current state of traditional healing practices in contemporary Asian societies? How are their practitioners faring in the encounter with Western science and its biomedical approach? How are traditional healing practices being transformed by the politics of health within the modern nation-state and by the processes of commodification typical of modern economies? How do patients in Asian societies see the various healing options now open to them?

The authors, all of whom are anthropologists, observe the clashes and complementarities between traditional therapies and biomedicine, which, in its many manifestations, is the dominant form of medicine supported by national governments, and is emblematic of the modernity to which they aspire. Some of the medical traditions, such as the sophisticated herbal-humoral systems of Tibetan medicine and Indian Ayurveda, are becoming well known in the West, both through scholarly study and through their increasing popularity with Western patients interested in their healing potential. This book adds a new dimension to their study, being focused unlike most previous writing on practice rather than textual tradition.

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About the Author:

LINDA H. CONNOR is Associate Professor, Department of Sociology & Anthropology, The University of Newcastle, Australia./e

GEOFFREY SAMUEL is Professor of Anthropology, The University of New Castle, Australia./e


“These compelling studies of local healers caught in global currents can stand on their own.”–Philosophy East & West

“The book is an excellent introduction to the medical anthropology of the region. While acknowledging the dominance of biomedicine in modernist nation states in Asia, it also helps to show the power relations inherent in the operation of healing praxis. It is a highly readable book, with fieldwork located at the centre of the individual contributions....This essential reading for anyone interested in healing praxis and for those with a research interest in Asian societies.”–Cambridge University Press

“[i]ntriguing and electric.”–The Journal of The Royal Anthropological Institute

“I have always looked to anthropology to generate ideas of global relevance from the detailed description of local healing encounters. Healing Powers and Modernity does exactly this. The chapters are all well written by medical anthropologies working with societies in Southeast and East Asia. The editors, Linda Connor and Geoffrey Samuel, have done well to bring these diverse casestudies together into a coherent whole....This is an important and timely book. It is rich in case material detail but also contains enough anthropological reflection to demonstrate the global relevance of these accounts.”–Social Science & Medicine

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