Asian medicines, such as TCM, Ayurveda, or Sowa Rigpa (Tibetan medicine), play an important socio-cultural, political, economic, and healthcare role not only in Asia, but increasingly also on a global scale. While this development provides Asian medicines an unprecedented relevance also from the perspective of socio-cultural anthropology, this is hardly reflected in the current state of scholarship. With few exceptions, Asian medicines are still considered as an expression of “traditional culture.”

Using recent theoretical and methodological approaches from anthropology and related disciplines, this project looks at Sowa Rigpa and Asian medicine for what they really are: modern and dynamic industries, which connect in novel ways capitalism and culture, science and religion, innovation and tradition, globalization and nationalism.

The aim of this project is to develop a new understanding of Sowa Rigpa and so-called “traditional” Asian medicines as pharmaceutical assemblages in the context of local communities, an emerging Asia, and Global Health. At the same time, the focus on Asian medical industries constitutes an important perspective on far-reaching regional socioeconomic transformations, and contributes new insights to the anthropology and recent history of Tibetan-Buddhist regions of Inner Asia.

Project leader:
Stephan Kloos

Calum Blaikie (associated researcher)

01.04.2019 -