Organized Panel Session
In many South Asian societies, medical traditions and practices have been preserved in apprenticeship-type programs that transmit knowledge systems from one generation to the next. These forms of knowledge and their methods of transmission are often not adequately if at all, measured or taken into consideration by practitioners of so-called modern or biomedical systems of healing. In recent decades across South Asia, however, critiques from various communities have been leveled against practitioners of biomedicine for not addressing the ambit of human health concerns that require attention to wellbeing and illness beyond one’s immediate, observable body. To address these matters, some people in governmental positions and medical organizations have tried to reclaim and promote therapeutic traditions in South Asia, many of which have existed for centuries, now only as alternatives and/or complements to modern establishment biomedicine. This panel explores the varieties of forms and functions of South Asian medicines, such as Ayurveda, Unani, Siddha, Sowa Rigpa, and Desiya, in view of measures proposed and taken to retrieve, preserve, and promote them in modern South Asia. Panelists present historical and contemporary views of one or more South Asian medicines, and they consider the matrixes of politics, economics, religion, and other cultural factors implicated in the process of revitalizing non-biomedical traditions in modern times. In the process, panelists wrestle with and problematize definitional issues raised by these discussions of relationships and contestations across medical systems, industries, and institutions in South Asia.