ISSN (Print) - 0012-9976 | ISSN (Online) - 2349-8846

Articles by Leena AbrahamSubscribe to Leena Abraham

What Is ‘Modern’ about Modernised Ayurveda?

Doctoring Traditions: Ayurveda, Small Technologies, and Braided Sciences by Projit Bihari Mukharji, Chicago and London: The University of Chicago Press, 2016; pp xi + 374, US$45/UK£31.50.

Studying Contemporary Ayurveda

Power, Knowledge, Medicine: Ayurvedic Pharmaceuticals at Home and in the World by Madhulika Banerjee (Hyderabad: Orient Blackswan), 2009; pp 360, Rs 795 (hardback).

Medicine, State and Society

The demand for cure and for the care of a growing range of health conditions which elude any particular system of medicine has made pluralism in therapeutic options a way of life. The spread and continuity of indigenous systems of medicines, namely, ayurveda, siddha and unani, have thrown up a lot of concerns as well: how to incorporate these systems into a centralised health infrastructure; their expansion through the pharmaceutical industry for herbal products, massage centres and spas; the relations and negotiations between the practitioners of different coexisting systems of medicine; the position of psychosocial and spiritual dimensions of cure and care in contemporary forms of indigenous systems of medicine and the debate on notions of efficacy in multiple, coherent systems of medicine. All these are worth serious study as they raise fundamental questions not just about isms, but about organising healthcare in India. A framework for the analysis of isms requires not only recognising the presence of diverse medical systems, but engaging with them as live and efficacious traditions. The collection of papers in this special issue attempts to address some of these matters.

Medicine as Culture: Indigenous Medicine in Cosmopolitan Mumbai

Using the framework of medicine as culture and focusing on the indigenous medicine of ayurveda, this paper examines the relationship between health, culture and medicine, and its social reproduction in contemporary India. Specifically it deals with the cultural construct of "Kerala ayurveda", and the modes of its societal reproduction and recreation simultaneously as culture and as medicine in cosmopolitan Mumbai. Through an analysis of the historical and cultural roots of Kerala ayurveda and the role of community organisations in its translocation into a city, the paper shows the analytical fragility of the tradition/modern binary in the understanding of contemporary indigenous systems and questions the belief that state and market provide the foremost sites for institutional and secular practice of indigenous medicines.

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