An Elephant in the Room? Sowa Rigpa as an Asian Medical Industry
Welcome to this seminar with guest speaker Stephan Kloos, Acting Director, Institute for Social Anthropology Austrian Academy of Sciences. The seminar is hosted by the research group Medical Anthropology and Medical History.
To sign up for the event send an e-mail to Heidi Fjeld and you will receive a link to the seminar. The seminar is held on Zoom.
Despite a strong body of anthropological scholarship on the professionalization, modernization, and globalization of Tibetan and other Asian medicines, the larger direction and outcome of these transformations – Asian medical industries – has long remained the proverbial elephant in the room. If spoken about at all, commercialization and industrialization are usually portrayed – by anthropologists and the practitioners they quote – as the latest in a line of “threats” to Tibetan medicine, and as its problematic “Other”.
In this paper I argue that a more nuanced perspective may be gained by acknowledging that Asian medicines – in this case, Tibetan medicine – have already become industries, and very successful ones at that. Industrialization and commercialization are therefore not negative external forces but are integral to Tibetan medicine’s contemporary form and practice. Using both transregional economic data and local ethnographic examples from Tibet, I will explore the Tibetan medicine industry as an assemblage of both old and new elements, reflecting the complexity of Asia’s ongoing social, political, and economic transformations.