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Healing Elements

Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine

Sienna R. Craig
Copyright Date: 2012
Edition: 1
Pages: 344
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  • Book Info
    Healing Elements
    Book Description:

    Tibetan medicine has come to represent multiple and sometimes conflicting agendas. On the one hand it must retain a sense of cultural authenticity and a connection to Tibetan Buddhism; on the other it must prove efficacious and safe according to biomedical standards. Recently, Tibetan medicine has found a place within the multibillion-dollar market for complementary, traditional, and herbal medicines as people around the world seek alternative paths to wellness.Healing Elementsexplores how Tibetan medicine circulates through diverse settings in Nepal, China, and beyond as commercial goods and gifts, and as target therapies and panacea for biophysical and psychosocial ills. Through an exploration of efficacy - what does it mean to say Tibetan medicine "works"? - this book illustrates a bio-politics of traditional medicine and the meaningful, if contested, translations of science and healing that occur across distinct social ecologies.

    eISBN: 978-0-520-95158-7
    Subjects: Anthropology

Table of Contents

  1. Front Matter
    (pp. i-vi)
  2. Table of Contents
    (pp. vii-viii)
  3. List of Illustrations
    (pp. ix-x)
  4. Preface
    (pp. xi-xii)
  5. Acknowledgments
    (pp. xiii-xvi)
  6. Notes on the Use of Non-English Terms
    (pp. xvii-xviii)
  7. List of Acronyms
    (pp. xix-xx)
  8. Introduction
    (pp. 1-26)

    On a warm summer day in 2004, a friend comes into the Lhasa café where I’m having breakfast. This American nurse practitioner has spent many years in Tibet, working with local colleagues to improve the health of women and children. She has just returned from a trip to a region Tibetans call Kham, in the Chinese province of Sichuan. She made this trip with several other Western clinicians and Tibetan staff to conduct a field assessment of an American-funded Nongovernmental Organization’s (NGO) public health program. This team returned to Lhasa, the capital of China’s Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), the previous...

  9. CHAPTER 1 Portrait of a Himalayan Healer
    (pp. 27-47)

    It is early September 2008. The high-altitude air is tinged with autumn. I walk through the alleys of Lo Monthang, the largest settlement in northern Mustang District, Nepal. This is the time before animals have been let out to graze, before children have gone off to the new local day care,¹ to school, or to help gather dung and tend animals. I pass whitewashed homes decorated with protective door hangings above the threshold: colored yarn webs holding sheep skulls, repelling nefarious spirits and gossip. I hear the muffled sounds of cymbals, bells, and the resonant drone of Tibetan Buddhist monks...

  10. CHAPTER 2 The Pulse of an Institution
    (pp. 48-77)

    On an early morning in July 2010, I walk down a boulevard in Xining, the capital of Qinghai Province, China. High-altitude sun inches over the city. I pass high-rise apartment buildings and offices, some draped in scaffolding. This is a city on the rise, a metropolis of more than two million people on China’s western frontier, in a region Tibetans call Amdo. The hospital sits in a bustling, Muslim-dominated corner of this city. Bakers wearing white cotton caps knead dough into leavened disks. Butchers arrange slabs of pork and yak meat beside whirring fans. Car repair stores are wedged beside...

  11. CHAPTER 3 Lineage and Legitimacy
    (pp. 78-111)

    On the day of our visit to the homeopathic hospital at Harihar Bhawan, Gyatso and I make it as far as the Bagmati Bridge before our taxi is forced to pull over. It is March 2007. The sky above the Kathmandu Valley is clear, but the streets are filled with unrest. Recent political agitation bymadhesigroups along Nepal’s southern border has left Kathmandu in a state of perpetual shortage.¹ Strikes and road blockades have stopped the flow of petrol, cooking gas, and other essentials into the valley. Although Nepal’s second People’s Movement that reached its apex in April 2006...

  12. CHAPTER 4 Therapeutic Encounters
    (pp. 112-145)

    Tenzin Darkye’s clinic is located across from Swayambhunath, the “monkey temple” on the northern edge of Kathmandu. On a winter day in 2007 we meet at the base of the temple and I follow him across the ring road.

    “This way,” he says, guiding me by the arm. “My clinic is veryconvenience. Many local people from Mustang come. Others, like Nepalis, Sherpas, Tibetans, are also coming.” I note the way my colleague parses ethnicity: “locals” are from Mustang, even though we are in Kathmandu; an array of “others” include lowland Nepalis, other high-mountain groups, and Tibetan refugees.

    The sign...

  13. CHAPTER 5 Good Manufacturing Practices
    (pp. 146-182)

    Steam wafts from the cup of jasmine tea around which my friend Pema wraps his hands on this cool autumn morning in Lhasa in November 2002.¹ Beyond the tea house, commuters scuttle along Jiang Su Lu, a north-south corridor on which the Inpatient Division of the Mentsikhang is located.

    A few weeks ago a strapping Irishman, strawberry blond and somewhat brazen, appeared on the expatriate scene in Lhasa. He said he was looking for potential investment opportunities. Tibetan medicine was one avenue for the venture capital at his disposal. The Irishman picked up on Pema’s English abilities and that his...

  14. CHAPTER 6 Cultivating the Wilds
    (pp. 183-214)

    Wangdu tilts his hat against the glare of morning sun.¹ This seniormenpa, as eastern Tibetans often refer to Sowa Rigpa practitioners, is of slight stature and few words. He is sixty-one. After living through the Cultural Revolution as well as thelongue duréeof the Reform Era, Wangdu has retired from his position as a government health worker in Yunnan Province’s Dechen (Ch. Diqin) Tibetan Autonomous Prefecture. He still sees patients at his home and continues to mentor people like Gawa, a thirty-year-old doctor with whom I am also traveling, and Samphel, amenpaand social entrepreneur in his...

  15. CHAPTER 7 The Biography of a Medicine
    (pp. 215-252)

    The women’s inpatient ward at Mentsikhang smells of disinfectant and butter tea. Nurses in cool pink frocks and doctors in white lab coats talk with patients and family members in the building’s corridors. Unlike other hospitals in Lhasa, Mentsikhang is known for providers with good bedside manner and a willingness to treat patients regardless of their ability to pay.

    One morning in late 2002 I arrive at Mentsikhang with one of the Principal Investigators (PIs) of the NIH-funded project with which I am involved as a research coordinator and ethnographer. She is a midwife with a Ph.D. in public health,...

  16. Conclusion
    (pp. 253-262)

    Hair cropped short, monk-like, Kalden meets me squarely, head-on. I had just been calling his cell phone as he pushes through the double doors of the Himalayan Yak Restaurant in Jackson Heights, Queens. Autumn air blusters in behind him, and with it the metallic clatter of the Manhattan-bound 7 train.

    “Demo,” we greet each other Amdo-style, though neither of us is sure on which language to land. When we spoke on the phone over the previous year, his Amdo dialect had, for all its crispness, eluded me. I had been reticent to speak Lhasa dialect, knowing that this doctor from...

  17. Glossary
    (pp. 263-274)
  18. Notes
    (pp. 275-284)
  19. Bibliography
    (pp. 285-308)
  20. Index
    (pp. 309-321)
  21. Back Matter
    (pp. 322-322)