Heritage and the Politics of Culture
Ayurveda is made through (not prior to) various translocal encounters and entanglements, which produce uneven visions, missions, and practices. It is therefore not surprising that in today’s world we see a variety of Ayurvedic knowledges, identities and communities even to the extent that some speak of ‘syndicated Ayurveda’. These Ayurveda-making projects are deeply imbedded in shifting visions and formations of the worlds Indians and Westerners inhabit. Indeed, knowledge-making is world-making.
While Ayurveda in India tends to align with positivism (material empiricism), Ayurveda in the West has been represented as spiritual and, in this sense, also offers a critique on biomedicine’s materialistic medical gaze. Of special interest to the panel are the articulations of Ayurveda-making in India and in USA-Europe. Consequently, panel presenters will ask questions, such as: To what extent and in which ways are Ayurvedic forms contingent upon Ayurvedic institutional policies, national health care structures, and consumer demands? How should we look upon recent negotiations between Ayurveda and systems biology, personalized medicine and ayurgenomics? How do the many representations of Ayurveda – as an icon of Indian culture, as an exemplar of gentle healing, as confirmed by modern research, etc. – contradict and support each other?
Modern Ayurveda can be characterized as an in-between-science in the making caught between the Ayurvedic canons and biomedical technoscience. This is hardly surprising as Ayurveda has never been an enclosed ontological and epistemological domain. On the contrary, Ayurveda as it practiced, taught, and researched today in India and in the West, is marked by shifting discourses, practices, and forms. Recent empirical research shows that modern Ayurveda’s ambiguity leads to ‘cognitive dissonance’ and even ‘utter confusion’ among Ayurvedic college professors and students. The rubbing of contrasting logics makes (the study) of the many constructions of contemporary Ayurveda of interest to social scientists, philosophers of science, as well as to Ayurvedic stakeholders. This panel aims to address uneasiness and fascination with the framing of categories such as Ayurveda, medical science, AYUSH, and India.