South Asia

Organized Panel Session

3 - Traditional Healthcare Knowledge Systems and National Identity: a Case on Contemporary Nation Building in India

Friday, July 6
4:30 PM - 6:00 PM
Location: Marigold, New Building

This paper aims to analyze the relation between ‘traditional knowledge systems’ and a constructed national identity that portrays ancient cultural heritage and continuity of knowledge and lifeways to bind territory, people, and their cultural past. This constructed national identity helps to build an independent ancient ‘local’ identity in the context of a global geopolitical and economic system. Thus, the paper examines the contemporary discourse and narrative in traditional health care systems and knowledge such as Ayurveda and yoga and links to ancient practices within India. The declaration of yoga as an intangible cultural heritage in 2016 and the rise of Patanjali as a brand of Ayurvedic products, create an emerging narrative invoking a national identity. This heritage is propagated as tracing back the Indian culture to an envisioned Classical era of Indian civilization, which is pre-western in its origin. This helps build a narrative of a cultural and national identity with claims of an advanced system of knowledge independent of western science, thus claiming an antiquity independent of the technically advanced and developed West. This paper will examine the multiple discourses that exist in media, politics and the socio-cultural space of the common citizen of India that include concerns of right-wing Hindutva identity, cultural nationalism and the idea of building a national secular identity. It is also important to engage with prevalent sentiments such as navigating the local within global spaces and wanting to cast off the colonial mindset by propagating the native and indigenous civilizational identity. 

Shweta Deshpande

Symbiosis International University, India

Presentation(s):

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Anita Patankar

Symbiosis International University, India

Presentation(s):

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