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History from Below: The Social History of Medicine and Subaltern Studies (David Hardiman)

In this week, we shall focus on popular beliefs about healing and popular healing practices, asking how we should study and relate to them.This is sometimes characterised as ‘folk medicine’ – which is the subject of the reading by Loux.Murray Last, in another of the core texts, talks of ‘great’ and ‘little’ traditions. Such a definition excludes not only western biomedicine, but also the ‘classical’ systems of healing found in the old civilisations, namely Unani Tibb (Islam), Ayurveda (India) and Chinese traditional medicine (China).Is the concept of ‘great’ and ‘little’ adequate? How do subordinate groups – the subject of Subaltern Studies – relate to such medicine and what are their own forms of healing?To make the session manageable, we shall focus on practices of healing in India, where a number of approaches and systems flourish alongside each other.

Seminar Reading

François Loux, ‘Folk Medicine,’ in W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter (eds.), Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, 1 (1993): 661-675.

Murray Last, ‘Non-Western Concepts of Disease,’ in W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter (eds.), Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, 1 (1993): 634-60.

Carol MacCormack, ‘Medicine and Anthropology,’ in W.F. Bynum and Roy Porter (eds.), Companion Encyclopedia of the History of Medicine, 2 (1993): 1436-1448.

Further Reading

David Arnold, Colonizing the Body: State Medicine and Epidemic Disease in Nineteenth-Century India ( California, 1993), Chapter 3: Smallpox: The Body of the Goddess, pp. 116-58, and Chapter 5: Plague: Assault on the Body, pp. 200-39.

David Hardiman, Missionaries and their Medicine: A Christian Modernity for Tribal India (2008), Chapter 2: The Bhils, pp. 19-50.

David Hardiman and Gauri Raje, ‘Practices of Healing in Tribal Gujarat’, Economic and Political Weekly (Mumbai), 43, 9, 1 (2008): 43-50.

Helen Lambert, ‘Plural Traditions? Folk Therapeutics and “English” Medicine in Rajasthan’, in Andrew Cunningham and Bridie Andrews (eds), Western Medicine as Contested Knowledge (1997), pp.191-211.A case study from Rajasthan, this provides perhaps the best introduction to the complex nature of medical belief in India.

Helen Lambert, ‘The Cultural Logic of Indian Medicine: Prognosis and Etiology in Rajasthan Popular Therapeutics,’ Social Science and Medicine, 34, 10 (1992): 1069-76.

Langford, Jean M., Fluent Bodies: Ayurvedic Remedies for Postcolonial Imbalances (2002).

Roy Porter, ‘The Patient’s View: Doing History from Below,’ Theory and Society, 14, 2, (1985): 175-198.

Megan Vaughan, ‘Healing and Curing: Issues in the Social History and Anthropology of Medicine in Africa’, Social History of Medicine, 7 (1994): 285–6.