Medical systems function in specific cultural contexts. It is common to speak of the medicine of China, Japan, India, and other nation-states. Yet almost all formalized medical systems claim universal applicability and, thus, are ready to cross the cultural boundaries that contain them. There is a critical tension, in theory and practice, in the ways regional medical systems are conceptualized as nationalistic or inherently transnational. This volume is concerned with questions and problems created by the friction between nationalism and transnationalism at a time when globalization has greatly complicated the tion of cultural, political, and ecomic boundedness. Offering a range of perspectives, the contributors address questions such as: How do states concern themselves with the modernization of traditional medicine? How does the global hegemony of science enable the nationalist articulation of alternative medicine? How do global discourses of science and new age spirituality facilitate the transnationalization of Asian medicine? As more and more Asian medical practices cross boundaries into Western culture through the popularity of yoga and herbalism, and as Western medicine finds its way east, these systems of meaning become inextricably interrelated. These essays consider the larger implications of transmissions between cultures.
Joseph S. Alter is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Pittsburgh. He is the author of Gandhi's Body: Sex, Diet, and the Politics of Nationalism and Knowing Dil Das: Stories of a Himalayan Hunter, both available from the University of Pennsylvania Press.