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Accentuations and pragmatism. Tibetan medical knowledge for foreigners
Revue d'Anthropologie des Connaissances
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: 2011
Pages: 99 - 130
Source ID: shanti-sources-98106
Abstract: Since the mid-1970s, the development of tourism in Ladakh, a remote region in the Indian Himalayas, has attracted an increasing number of foreigners interested in Tibetan medicine. Some English-speaking practitioners have taken the opportunity to directly address this new clientele, in their own clinics or through public lectures. This article is concerned with this local manifestation of therapeutic globalization. More specifi cally, it examines how these practitioners present an elaborated and complex body of medical knowledge with the intention of making it accessible to foreigners. The practitioners pragmatically attempt to create a space for communication, but neither their medical knowledge nor their practice are deeply altered for all that. The brevity of these encounters, however, imposes a need for simplifi cation and reformulation of knowledge, which accentuate existing characteristics in Tibetan medicine, such as Buddhism taken here as an example, and may convey distorted or truncated ideas to their interlocutors. This article shows that the processes involved in the "translation" of Tibetan medical knowledge are not restricted to matters of language or the infl uence of the new market in Tibetan medicine in the region. In trying to understand these expressions of knowledge, one encounters a particular, two-pronged demand: The need to refl ect on the architecture of erudite knowledge in the Tibetan world, and on the regional sociopolitical and economic dynamics. These considerations will help to place in proper perspective some assumptions on the enchantment and transformation of Tibetan medicine in similar environments.