Anthropology Research Group at Oxford on Eastern Medicines and Religions

The Anthropology Research Group at Oxford on Eastern Medicines and Religions (ArgO-EMR) promotes ethnographic research by students and scholars who are interested in the anthropology of Eastern medicines and religions. ArgO-EMR emphasizes long-term fieldwork and local language competencies. It investigates the ways medical and religious knowledge and practice are embedded within their ecologies and histories.

Eastern medicines and religions have family resemblances; while each is specific to the cultural context in which it is practised, they are often studied in isolation by separate research institutions and environments. ArgO-EMR therefore aims to offer a meeting ground for researchers who already have experience with, or wish to engage in, the study of Eastern medicines and religions across geographical areas and theoretical perspectives. It holds a fortnightly seminar, a fortnightly reading group, and an annual international workshop.

The University of Oxford has more anthropologists working on Asia and East Asia than any other British university. ArgO-EMR promotes doctoral and senior research projects on the anthropology of Eastern medicines and religions (EMR), supported by permanent staff in the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA), as well as the Faculty of Oriental Studies (FOS). Our research group builds on expertise that coalesces in ISCA’s MSc and MPhil programmes in medical anthropology and maintains close links to the Centre on Migration Policy and Society (COMPAS) and to the University's 'China Centre’.

For an English version of the prospectus, click here.


Who are we?

Argo-EMR is one of several research groups working on Medical and Ecological Anthropology within the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology (ISCA), University of Oxford. Our perspective is mostly informed by critical, interpretive  and phenomenological orientations within  medical anthropology.
Why Eastern medicines and religions?
Eastern medicines and religions are ‘traditional’ aspects of East Asian cultures that are still very much alive in contemporary Asia and beyond. Eastern medicines and religions include but are not limited to the fields of Tibetan medicine and Buddhism; multiple Chinese healing modalities; Japanese Kanpo; Korean medicine; Siddha, Ayurveda and Unani of India; and Hmong and other Southeast Asian religious and healing rituals. In institutionalised urban as well as rural settings, medical knowledge is found to be intertwined with religious belief and practice, daily self-care habits, lifestyle, and diet. With their worldwide expansion they have reached global significance. They deserve to be researched as phenomena of non-European science, technology and medicine, while continuities between medicine and religion persist.
What are our objectives?
Argo-EMR emphasizes long-term fieldwork and local language competencies. We offer a meeting ground for anthropologists and researchers who adopt an anthropological orientation in the study of Eastern medicines and religions. This forum encourages collaborative efforts across geographical areas and theoretical perspectives. We promote anthropological research within core research projects, one-year postdoctoral fellowships and doctoral studentships.
ArgO-EMR Academic landscape

Eastern medicines and religions have family resemblances and reveal cross-cultural continuities, yet quickly develop specificities to the locality of their practice. Argo-EMR is a coordinated anthropological effort to explore Eastern medicines and religions in popular rural, institutionalized urban and transnational settings. We emphasize long-term fieldwork and linguistic competency.

Anthropology of EMR in popular rural settings
The opening of China, particularly western China, as well as other parts of East Asia, has also opened new areas of research. Continuities between medical and Daoist, Buddhist, Bon and other local medico-religious practices persist.
Anthropology of EMR in institutionalised urban settings
This aspect of Eastern medicines and religions predominates in most of the research, often from Science and Technology Studies perspectives. Yet Eastern medicines are not merely culturally-specific forms of science, but also show continuities to religion and everyday life practices.
Anthropology of EMR in transnational settings
A surge of movements toward well-being has prompted a thriving of Eastern medicine-related businesses around the world. Anthropologists are particularly well-equipped for highlighting the cultural aspects of exported practices, as well as for addressing the misunderstandings and stereotypes that enhance and/or discourage the consumption of such medicines.
By exploring family resemblances between Eastern medicines and religions, Argo-EMR offers an arena for innovative anthropology, which offsets the divisive trend of area studies by bringing together anthropologists who might normally work in separate institutions.
Ongoing research

Argo-EMR promotes ethnographic research on Eastern medicines and religions in rural, institutionalised urban, and transnational settings. Argo-EMR facilitates senior and post-doctoral research, and intends to offer studentships and one-year fellowships.

Current ongoing research projects in Rural Areas:

Tibetan Sign Language and Deaf Identities in the Making: Signing, Embodiment, and the Lives of Deaf People in the Tibet Autonomous Region, China

Since 2001, deaf Tibetans in Lhasa have been formalising a broad variety of signs, gestures and other forms of communication into the Tibetan Sign Language (TSL). This project seeks to understand the methods, people and organisations involved in the emergence and ongoing development of TSL. It furthermore studies who signs TSL, and how TSL influences deaf Tibetans’ lives and their educational, social and employment opportunities. A special emphasis is placed on exploring how anthropological theorising of the body and embodiment might be usefully applied to, and enhances the study, transmission and use of TSL in the People’s Republic of China (PRC), in relation to processes in deaf identity formation. Through its
theoretical, analytical and methodological attention to body and embodiment, the project aims to add to, but also enrich, existing scholarship on signing and deaf identity formation. The project is undertaken by Dr Theresia Hofer, Wellcome Fellow at the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, 2015 –2018, and core member of the Institute’s Anthropology Research Group on Eastern Medicine and Religion (ArgO-EMR). 

'Textual Transmission' in Tibetan Medicine

Three educational methods: empowerment (Tib. dbang), textual initiation (Tib. lung) and didactic teaching (Tib. khrid) are traditionally seen as the three compulsory methods in Tibetan medical education. Out of these, apart from ‘didactic teaching’, which is required to impart / gain intellectual knowledge, the other two methods aim at imparting general familiarity with the subject and a deeper awareness, appreciation and confidence in the theoretical understanding and practice of Tibetan medicine. Both methods involve lineage transmission lines, either textually or spiritually. A person who has received all three of these teaching elements can be considered to have gained ‘full’ transmission of knowledge, including both ‘general’ and ‘sacred’ aspects. However, in the modern institutionalised education environment, these traditional ‘sacred’ teaching methods have somehow become neglected areas, and as time passes by, we are entering a transitional time when traditionally trained Tibetan doctors who obtained the full transmissions are becoming older. Modern university-trained younger generation Tibetan doctors are in general lacking this inner wisdom developed through sacred study methods. Important lineage transmission lines are at risk and once these ‘living’ transmission lines die out it will be very difficult to restore them.

Dr Mingji Cuomo's research into ‘Textual Transmission’ in Tibetan Medical Education has two aims. One is to document the textual transmission lineages by either interviewing lineage holders who are still alive and by reviewing the existing literatures (in particular through the biographies of historically famous Tibetan doctors) in order to determine the different textual transmission lineages. The second goal is to evaluate and analyse the rational aspects of this teaching method in order to understand why these sacred teaching methods are still today considered very important. Further aims are to preserve and promote these important teaching methods which are traditionally seen as core values of Tibetan medical education. 

Current ongoing research projects in Institutional Settings:

The herbal anti-malarial qinghao in the pre-modern Chinese medical literature

Artemisinin is a purified chemical substance that has been demonstrated, beyond reasonable doubt, to have antimalarial properties. The molecule has as active principle a peroxide bridge and is known for causing rapid fever clearance with minimal side effects, It was extracted in the 1970s from the species Artemisia annua L., plant parts of which are used to make the traditional Chinese medical “drug”/herb  qinghao, huanghuahao. Currently several projects on qinghao are underway.

The first project should result in the publication of a handbook in Chinese and English, sourcing information on qinghao from 168 BCE-1949 within the genre of Chinese medical recipes (fangji), It will be the first book-length project to provide a longitudinal, critical study of a single traditional Chinese materia medica in English. The project started in March 2011, funded by the Shanghai Traditional Medicine University, and is undertaken by Professors Wu Zhongping, Wu Dunxu and Elisabeth Hsu, with the help of research assistants funded by the Medicines for Malaria Venture (Geneva).

Furthermore, Dr C. W. Wright of the University of Bradford and Elisabeth Hsu have undertaken exploratory researches into the ethno-archeology of Artemisa annua L. and Artemisia appiacea Hance (the latter is a perennial species in the Flora of Korea), resulting in various publications between 2006 and 2015. This research is ground breaking in that it aims to re-enact the drug preparatory methods as recommended in pre-modern scientific Chinese texts and to test these re-enacted recommendations according to modern scientific standards (e.g. Wright et al., 2010). Further research on antimalarial teas and juices, and into the poly-pharmacy of qinghao recipes, is planned.

Finally, on a more general level, the above researches, which, ultimately, concern the body’s sensorial engagement with its environment, throw new light on questions of sense perception and sense awareness raised in the history and philosophy of science (Whitehead, 1920; Latour, 2000).

Current ongoing research projects in Transnational Settings:

Chinese Medicine in East Africa

This ethnographic study that commenced in 2001 researches an East-South flow and thereby countervails the standard accounts of globalisation from the West to ‘the rest' of the world. Chinese medicine, as a ‘modern traditional' medicine, is attractive to an upwardly mobile, self-styled 'middle class'. Yet equally common are drug stores, staffed by local Tanzanian youth only, in rural townships and small clinics close to bustling bus stations in large cities. Elisabeth Hsu has published umpteen articles on this theme, and a monograph is in preparation. Furthermore, she collected medical commodities for a display case on the ‘Treatment options for HIV/AIDS patients in Tanzania' in the permanent exhibition on ‘Living and Dying' at the British Museum, London. 

Completed research

Blood, Women's Bodies and Gender in Ancient Mesopotamian Medicine

Ulrike Steinert, Babylonian Medicine, Freie Universität Berlin, 2016

Body substances form a significant topic for analysis, in medical anthropology as well as in the history of medicine. One intriguing aspect of body substances in cross-cultural perspective is presented by their complex links to cultural epistemologies concerning the body, human nature and social order.

In this study, Ulrike Steinert investigates the notions connected to blood in general and to female bleeding in particular, which are reflected in Mesopotamian medical cuneiform texts from the 2nd and 1st millennium BCE.

The research focuses on the Babylonian healers’ ideas and knowledge about women’s monthly bleeding in relation to concepts of the human body, in relation to gender-specific physiological processes (in connection with reproduction), and in relation to imputed significations of bodily discharges in medical and other texts (e.g. myths, omens, rituals). The analysis aims to elucidate how views on female blood tie in with broader cultural concepts about the gendered body.

Steinert proposes that women’s bleeding in Mesopotamia was conceptualised in a culture-specific way that differs from the notion of menstruation developed in the Hippocratic writings up to contemporary Western medicine as a regular process restricted and essential to women’s bodies. Her study will integrate textual and historical evidence with anthropological analyses of menstruation in non-Western cultures to highlight ambiguities surrounding the understanding of women’s bleeding. In particular, the study aims to overcome an overemphasis in current Assyriological research on notions of impurity and pollution associated with women’s bleeding.

The Imagination and Practice of Chinese Tea in the Cultivation of Personhood and Well-Being

Kunbing Xiao, Associate Professor, Research Institute of the Minorities in Southwest China, Southwest University for Nationalities, 2014-2015

Tea has long been considered a cultural symbol in China. Deeply interwoven with Chinese Buddhism and Daoism, tea is a vital part of the ritual environment during the Buddhist monks’ and Daoists’ meditation. Tea has also long been regarded as a special ‘semi-medicinal’ plant. But in order to fully benefit from tea, people had to mobilize their sense organs (nose, tongue, eyes, ears, skin and posture) in particular ways. Ultimately, the particularity of these mobilizations became a differentiator of social class (nobles versus others) and had implications for ideas of proper conduct. The main purpose of Prof Xiao Kunbing’s research is to describe and analyse the metaphors used for the appreciation of tea and its therapeutic practice. She seeks to show how the special materiality of tea gives it a powerful relationship of physical feeling and subjective imagination, personal body and social body, spiritual belief and actual effect.

A Comparative Study on Inner Alchemy and Tibetan Tantric Buddhism

Shen Wenhua, Associate Professor, University of Nanjing, Department of Religious Studies, Nanjing, 2014-2015

The theories of inner alchemy and Tibetan tantra have accumulated abundant knowledge of the body, spirit, and soul. This project uses the comparative method to identify the generalities they reveal about life. Ultimately, the theories of inner alchemy and Tibetan tantra demonstrate strong similarities, particularly regarding the view of the universe, the concept of yinyang and the five phases, the theories of the immortals and the Brahma, the relationship between body structure and nadi tsa, the sexual arts, alchemy and pharmaceutical technology, visualization, praying, the mandala, and so on. Research contents include: 1.Comparison of philosophy and doctrine. This includes a study of ’the body’ (體) and  the ‘dao’, ‘the phase’(相)and ‘yinyang’, ‘use’(用)and ‘san produces all things’  (三生萬物) 2. Comparison of religious practice. a. Comparison of subtle body parts such as ‘san dantian’(三丹田)and ‘sanmai qilun’(三脈七輪). b. Comparison in the procedures of practice: ‘Four steps of inner alchemy’ and ‘Nine steps in nyingma dzogchen’. c. Comparison of the practical realms: gods at five levels in the Daoist pantheon, and the Dharmakaya, Sambhogakaya, Avatar in the Tibetan tantra. 3. Discussion of the significance that inner alchemy and Tibetan tantra bring to us today, such as self-awareness, intuitive thinking and intelligence.

Public Perceptions of Traditional Chinese Medicine Culture in the UK

Zhang Yanping, Associate Professor, Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine, Centre for TCM Culture in the School of Humanities, Nanjing, 2013-12014

This small research project was carried out between February and June 2014 after approval by the School’s ethics committee. It employed a questionnaire of 18 questions, of which 15 were multiple choice. It recruited 30 participants (14 male, 16 female), aged between 23 and 71, including 14 British, 9 other European, 7 American and 1 Chinese nationals, and of whom 20 among were scholars, support staff, and students of the University of Oxford The findings indicated that more than half of the participants had a personal experience, or a family member’s, of traditional Chinese herbal medicine and/or acupuncture. Almost all participants had heard of the concept yinyang, especially the taiji diagram. However, with exception of a few scholars in Chinese Studies, the participants had no knowledge of the ancient Chinese famous doctors and medical classics and could not explain the meanings of yinyang and qi in detail. The participants had different understandings about the purpose of TCM applications, depending on their own experience, but they generally believed TCM was more applicable in the treatment of difficult diseases such as vitiligo, eczema, psoriasis, rheumatoid, arthritis, asthma, rhinitis, pain, cervical spondylosis, lumbar removal, and infertility. The participants with a background in psychology, medicine, and/ or anthropology gave fuller explanations of the human-environment relations related to TCM. The participants with a background in biomedicine trusted the RCT (double-blinded randomised controlled trials) for the evaluation of the effectiveness of TCM treatment and therefore often exhibited a distrusting attitude towards the effectiveness of TCM. With regards to the current state of TCM in UK, all participants thought that TCM should be used as a complementary medicine. 

Analysing manuscripts of Yao Nationality Daoism

Xu Fei, Institute of Religious Studies, Sichuan University, Chengdu, 2011-12

The University of Oxford hosts more than three hundred copies of Yao Nationality Daoism scriptures not found in the Daoist Canon and not recorded in the contemporary Daoist literature. In the 1990s, Curator of Chinese Collections in the Bodleian library, Mr Helliwell, acquired the Yao Daoist manuscripts, which are written in Chinese characters and which apparently came from local Yao communities in northern Thailand. These scriptures, of which there is no comparable collection in China, allow for invaluable research on Yao nationality Daoism and Daoism more generally. While there is a bibliographic project underway by Lucia Obi towards Part II of "Handschriften der Yao" (Part I, edited by Thomas Höllmann in 2004, is in the Staatsbibiliothek at Munich), this project, undertaken by the visiting academic Xu Fei and her doctoral supervisor at the University of Chengdu, Professor Guo Wu, aims a) to document this series of scriptures photographically for research purposes in China, b) re-arrange them thematically for summary, such that Chinese speaking researchers can access them more easily, and c) analyse selected texts related to healing (in a co-authored English article).

Scriptures of this kind are one of the main carriers of Daoist cultural practices, as Daoists generally regard the Dao, the scriptures, and the Daoist masters as the three treasuries of the religion. Despite the invention of printing, copying scriptures has remained one of the dominant ways to spread Daoist practices. Yao nationality Daoism has been a hotbed for research for many years, but the investigation is usually thwarted by a lack of accurate historical records. The holdings of Bodleian Library therefore may be helpful in sorting out these difficulties and drawing a clear map of the developments of Yao nationality Daoism. 

Traditional Korean medicine between two extremes

Yousang Baik, Associate Professor, College of Oriental Medicine, Kyunghee University, Seoul, 2011-12

Today Korean society is a culture of extremes, containing tradition and modernity, religion and science, conservatism and progressivism, east and west, etc. Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM) hosts both ends of these confronting values. This project researches how the knowledge and practical skills of Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM) are handed down from person-to-person and among self-identifying social circles of traditional medicine. In particular, this research investigates how processes of person-to-person transmission come from the unique socio-cultural and historical background of the Korean society and to what extent this process is common to other traditional medicines. The project also focuses on the mutating features of TKM, which have adapted in order to cope with environmental changes.

For over 60 years, TKM has been assured a high position by the legal system; however, systematic control over TKM in the aspects of medical education and clinical trials by the government or other organizations is relatively loose. This paradox demonstrates the deep-rooted commitment of TKM practitioners to maintain individual spontaneity, making it difficult for the Korean biomedical community to support TKM. Throughout history, numerous treatments, theories, and schools of TKM have incessantly appeared, spread, undergone examination, and either been discarded or received with recognition. This process continues today without permanent regulation. Despite the Japanese Government General’s powerful repression over several thousands of traditional doctors during the colonial period, TKM practitioners still carry out their own medical practice and are entrusted as influential players in medical treatment. 

But as society turns toward a global standardisation of treatment evaluations, TKM faces a turning point. Considering the observation that such turning points are often from a longue-duree-view of history insignificant and that the essence of culture lies not in rapid external development but is embedded in the everyday lives of the people, it suffices to say that the study of the thoughts and practices of Korean medical doctors who are facing the current vast environmental changes is key to identifying the characteristics of Korean medical culture. , and anticipate its future.

The Body and Medicine in the Shi jing (Book of Odes)

Zhang Jianjun, Professor, Art History Department, College of Fine Arts, Shanghai University, Shanghai, 2012-13

There are at least 51 poems in Shi jing pertaining to the body and medical field. The poems can be classified into nine themes: plants, bodily conditions in adolescent boys and girls; feelings of desire and resistance to sexual longing; procreation and birthing; abundant alcohol consumption for religious reasons and others; ageing including the disorders of old age and signs indicative of longevity; bodily deformity and associated ethics; disorders of the heart arising from emotional problems; and finally, epidemics that can bring disaster to the state. Medical anthropological methods on these topics can elucidate new interpretations of both the Shi jing and early Chinese cultures. The project aims to screen the Shi jing poems for ethnobotanical terms, study the traditional exegesis of these poems and the included meanings of sensations, explore relations between literary presentation and bodily feeling, and investigate how bodily and medical experiences transform into the Shi jing’s literary.

Background: Shi jing studies have a very long history and include shifting interpretations. The ancient scholars interpreted it as praising and satirising to the Son of Heaven (Tianzi 天子); the modern scholars considered it more as a literary text. Anthropological studies include Wen Yiduo who published Myth and Poetry, the French scholar Marcel Granet who published Fetes et chanson anciennes de la Chine and in America, and Ching-Hsien Wang who published Shih Ching: formulaic language and mode of creation. However, up until now, a study of the Shi jing from a medical anthropological perspective is unprecedented.

Icons and Innovation in Southwest China's Religious Texts

Katherine Swancutt, AHRC-ESRC Research Fellow in Social Anthropology, Oct 2007-13, now Lecturer in the Anthropology of Religion, Department of Theology and Religious Studies King's College London

Sacred texts mobilise many forms of change, but while studies on them tend to focus on an exegesis of textual meanings, they rarely show how religious specialists, their clients, and even the texts themselves interact in practices that trigger religious change. Shamanic or 'animistic' religions in particular have often been considered as the foil to world religions, whose text-reading priests cite written passages which reinforce social conventions across the generations. However, sacred texts can also be subjected to a 'hybridised' practice of textual and oral exegesis, which combines (1) the imagistic-linguistic or phonetic elements of script forms and (2) the materiality of the written texts as used in rituals with (3) religious practitioners' memories of previous performances, which are often a spontaneous response to social circumstances.

This project, funded by the AHRC-ESRC Religion and Society programme as a Major Research Award 2009-2013, brings four researchers together: Elisabeth Hsu (Principal Investigator); Katherine Swancutt (AHRC Research Fellow); Markus Schiesser, who directed the film Blood For the Gods: Ritual Revival Among the Premi people in Southwest China to be released shortly; and Yang Honglin, Associate Professor, Yunnan Nationalities University, China Studies. It investigates the chanting of sacred texts as a 'technique' that skilfully amalgamates the materiality of the text with its imagistic scripts, in ways that either give rise to 'revelatory' religious innovations or simply reinforces conventions. It explores how shamans in Southwest China interact with their sacred texts in practice, effectively rendering texts into 'works-in-progress' rather than into 'fixed entities'. The project hosted the fortnightly ArgO-EMR seminars, and the conference at ISCA, on ‘The Viewpoint of the Technique’, 28-29 Jan 2010.

Pulse Diagnostics in Chinese Medicine

Dr Elisabeth Hsu

Touch, tactile perception, and tactility are aspects of Chinese medicine that are fundamental for understanding basic concepts of Chinese medicine like qi (usually translated as influence or energy), zang (often translated as inner organs, depots, or viscera), and others. The language of emotion is often a tactile one, and this may explain why a tactually known body can attend to feelings and emotions.

The first extant text that deals extensively with an already fairly elaborate art of Chinese pulse diagnostics includes twenty-five medical case histories, recorded by a doctor called Chunyu Yi (born 215 BC), and transmitted within  the 105th chapter of the Shi ji (Records of the Historian) by Sima Qian (?145–86 BC).

Two projects employ this text. One is a translation of the entire chapter in collaboration with the Department of East Asian Languages and Literature, University of Wisconsin (Hsu and Nienhauser 2011). The other is a publication of a monograph that focuses on highly complex concepts of disease and their diagnosis through tactile perception, a diagnostic process that attends to the present and is not primarily dependent on establishing the cause of a disorder in the past (Hsu 2010).

Another series of texts on pulse diagnostics dates to between the 7th–11th century AD. The series is part of a corpus of medical manuscripts found in a Buddhist cave at Dunhuang. All texts on pulse diagnostics in the following Dunhuang manuscripts have been summarised and indexed: P2115, P3287, P3477, P3481, P3655, S79, S181, S202, S5614, S6245, S8289, S9431, S9443. A synopsis of them is provided in an introductory essay, which also outlines a modular reading of these texts. Their study contributes to the project “Medicine, religion et société dans la Chine mediévale: Etude de manuscrits chinois de Dunhuang et de Turfan” (Despeux 2010).

Following these textual studies, Dr Elisabeth Hsu undertook ethnographic fieldwork on the tactile qualities of different pulse patterns from July 2009-January 2010 (funded by the ESRC).. She worked with a ninth generation Chinese medical doctor in Huizhou, Anhui province, PR China, in order to understand how one learns to identify and talk about these tactile practices during the medical encounter. 

Generating Synchronicity: Vitality and Relatedness in Southwest China

Dr Katherine Swancutt and Dr Elisabeth Hsu

This three-year long ESRC project (Oct 2006 - Jan 2010), explores the hypothesis that religio-medical practices have developed sophisticated linguistic devices and bodily techniques for endorsing the therapeutic principle of 'generating synchronicity' between practitioner and patient. Synchronicity arises when practitioner and patient focus on a single event, which breaks down habitual boundaries between them and generates a space for negotiating uncertainty and interpersonal relations. This is thought to create a sense of relatedness between them, which, in turn, is considered to enhance vitality. In order to explore how people generate synchronicity through (1) the use of vague and/or polysemous concepts during the therapeutic encounter and (2) tactility, the researchers Dr Katherine Swancutt and Dr Elisabeth Hsu carried out language-competent ethnographic field research among the Xiaoliangshan Yizu in 2007-08 and, as it was difficult to visit the Eya Naxi then, among the Hanzu in Hsu village, Huizhou, Anhui province, in 2009-10.

The field results have been complemented with an Ethnicity and Identity seminar series on “Blood, Vitality and Relatedness” in Michaelmas Term 2007, a medical anthropology seminar series on 'Vitality-enhancing Body Substances' in Hilary Term 2008 and a workshop on 28-29 January 2010 on 'The Viewpoint of the Technique: Managing Time and Crisis Resolution in Eastern Religions and Medicines'.

Shamanic Remedies and among the Nuosu (Liangshan Yizu)

Katherine Swancutt, AHRC-ESRC Research Fellow in Anthropology, Oct 2007-13, now Lecturer in the Anthropology of Religion, Department of Theology and Religious Studies, King's College London

Katherine Swancutt’s fieldwork among the Nuosu in Yunnan Province – who are a Tibeto-Burman group (known in Chinese as the Liangshan Yizu)  – was launched within the three-year ESRC project (2006-9) entitled ‘Generating Synchronicity: Vitality and Relatedness in Southwest China’. This new fieldwork arose out of Swancutt’s larger comparative initiative for showing how innovative shamanic (or other magical) remedies are regularly sought out across Asia.

Using fieldwork of the Buryat Mongols of Northeast Mongolia and China since 1999, Swancutt produced two articles in the JRAI (2006 and 2008): a monograph on divination and fortune (khiimor’) and an analysis of the production of shamanic innovations (2013, Berghahn).  Buryats frequently introduce tailor-made shamanic remedies to immediately resolve problems. Similarly, her article in Inner Asia (2007) parallels this Buryat innovation-making with the ad hoc pedagogy of Mongolian games, which she researched among the Deed Mongols of Qinghai, China.

To better understand the Nuosu, Swancutt travelled to a remote forested mountain village, located 8,000 kilometres southwest of her Mongolian field sites in 2007. Her unique ethnography on the Nuosu human soul and shamanic dreams highlights the Nuosu’s ‘predatory sociality’ (who held slaves and serfs until 1956-7, when the Chinese disbanded these practices under the Democratic Reforms). Her monograph on the Nuosu, complemented by several new articles and a book chapter (see below), offer an in-depth case study of the ways that, like Buryat shamands, Nuosu text-reading shamans (bimo) produce innovative remedies in moments of crisis. Nuosu exegeses are thus often ‘oral’ and improvisational, drawing upon inspirations from dreams, divinations and astrological predictions; indeed, This will be the center of Swancutt’s work on a new AHRC-ESRC research project at ISCA (starting in 2009),  entitled ‘Icons and Innovation in Southwest China’s Religious Texts’.   

The Medical Efficacy of Tibetan Household Rituals

Patrizia Bassini, John Fell Postdoctoral Research Fellow, Oct 2006-08

This project investigated the household rituals and bodily techniques used to protect against illness. Tibetans are strongly concerned with the harmful influence of the “cold” (‘khyags), which in popular Tibetan medicine is seen as the cause of many illnesses (e.g. TB, gastric disorders, postpartum infections).

People make great efforts to keep their bodies warm; they eat  specific foods known to have a heating effect (e.g. yak meat, fat soups, rtsam pa, ‘bra go dmar po-dates), visit local springs, and  that have a heating effect on the body. Additionally, they undergo daily rituals to appease deities in the natural environment and allay the detrimental effects they impose on people. Frequently, people inadvertently anger deities, evoking illness and misfortune from the sacred landscape they inhabit. Contrary to studies that focus on institutionalised forms of Tibetan medicine, this study explores day-to-day practices such as rituals, warmth-maintaining body techniques (e.g. eating and sleeping habits, visits to local hot springs) and how theose express and shape the social life of households. To date, Dr Bassini has carried out long-term field-work (several years) among Tibetans in rural Qinghai with specific focus on home-based popular experiences of health and illness.

The Sensory Experience of Thai Massage: Commercialisation, Globalisation and Tactility

Iida Junko, Associate Professor, Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare, Fellow of the Kawasaki Green College Medical Research Exchange Programme 2006-07

Based on a decade of fieldwork at traditional therapies clinic in Chiang Mai,
the largest city in northern Thailand, Dr Junko Iida, a Kawasaki Green College Academic Exchange Scholar in 2006-07, explored how the sensory experience of the Thai massage was affected by its commercialisation and globalisation. The popularity of the Thai massage among foreign tourists and the Thai urban middle class has informed the frequency of tactile interactions between people with different social and cultural backgrounds. Most Thai clients receive Thai massage as a therapy for pain which they interpret in terms of folk anatomy, while tourists receive it for relaxation or an ‘exotic experience’. These aims inform the massage technique: as tourists appear to prefer gentle massage, whereas Thai clients perceive the strength of a massage to be associated with its efficacy. Therefore, practitioners must answer to a variety of requests, learning massage skills not only through a standardised course, but also through ‘hands-on’, intersubjective experiences with clients and colleagues. This study, which is now published in the edited volume "Everyday Life in Asia: Social Perspectives on the Senses" (2010) reveals that it is necessary to acquire bodily knowledge in order to experience touch as efficacious or pleasurable.

Sensory Experience and Chinese Medicine

Dr Elisabeth Hsu

This four-year project (2003-07), funded by the Chiang Chingkuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange and instigated by Dr Yu Shuenn-der, Senior Researcher at the Institute of Ethnology, Academia Sinica, Taiwan, brought anthropologists and historians of medicine together in monthly seminars and a yearly workshop. Invited as a foreign expert, Dr Elisabeth Hsu collaborateed in exploring themes of “the training of the senses” or “the senses in everyday life”. In particular, the scholars focused on the shentigan (literally: bodily resonances), a concept that makes evident how culture-specific the Western notion of “the senses” is and how often it is intricately related to Cartesian ideas about the body. The edited volume (2008) explores shentigan that refers to sensory experiences, emotional states, priopriocetive perceptions, hunger, fatigue, anxiety, and the like. 

Approaches to Misfortune in the Kathmandu Valley, Nepal

Professor David Gellner

The Kathmandu Valley is home to an old high culture, both Hindu and Buddhist and based on Tantric scriptures, which gives a prominent place to healing practices. At the same time, it has always been a trading and pilgrimage outpost for Tibetan Buddhists and Indian Hindus. Today, as the capital of a rapidly developing and politically tortured country, it is home to religious and healing movements from all over the world, including Japanese Seimeikyo and Tenrikyo, Rajneesh, Christian missionaries, Buddhist vipassana meditation, naturopathy, and many more. At the same time, many shamans have migrated from the hills and freelance mediums of various sorts are found in most localities. Ayurvedic practitioners are also common and there is an Ayurvedic hospital supported by the government, in addition to many Ayurvedic clinics.

There is a very specific relation to gender in this context, in that possessed mediums are predominantly female, regardless of whether they are Buddhist or Hindu, whereas healers, whose practice depends on the mastery of acquired techniques and some relationship to oral or written texts, are nearly always male. Professor David Gellner has a longterm interest in mapping the overall field in which these movements exist, in Ayurveda and its context, and in tracing patients' or clients' strategies of resort. Publications: articles 1993 (Tantric Healer), 1994 (Priests, Healers). He also has an interest in similar phenomena in Japan, 1996 (Temples for life).

A medicine of constitutions: Sasang medicine in contemporary South Korea

Hyunkoo Kim, St Antony's College, 2021
Supervisor: Elisabeth Hsu

This thesis investigates the process of standardisation, scientisation, and diversification of Sasang medicine in contemporary South Korea, through the lens of its central concept ch’ejil (constitution). Sasang medicine (sasang ŭihak) is a current of medical tradition which emerged from the scholarly physician Yi Chema in late 19th century Chosŏn. Sasang medicine is known as ch'ejil ŭihak (constitutional medicine) because it assumes that human beings have different constitutions with different physiologies and pathologies as well as different psychological traits. Sasang medicine is a unique example in [traditional] Korean medicine because it has constantly been practiced for over a century and is ingrained into health practices of modern Koreans as well as the contemporary health care system in South Korea.

Based on multi-sited ethnographic fieldwork in a school of Korean medicine and its teaching hospital, in a national research institute, and in private clinics, this thesis meticulously explores how an established form of Sasang medicine has been situated in the institutionalised system of Korean medicine. Ethnographies from different field sites provide microscopic details which are interspersed with various issues of collaboration, confrontation, and negotiation of different values and epistemologies. Furthermore, this thesis scrutinizes ‘how practitioners of Sasang medicine know what they know’ in such different social settings. These attempts are fulfilled by exploring how the central concept of Sasang medicine, ch’ejil, is understood in each field site. In so doing, this thesis aims to elucidate to what extent the practice of Sasang medicine in historical and social formation diversifies concepts of ch’ejil, which have played a role as a fluid medium to raise legitimacy or “efficacy” of Sasang medicine.

Once More to the Body: an Ethnography of Mindfulness Practitioners in the United Kingdom

Kitty Wheater, St Cross College, 2017
Supervisor: Elisabeth Hsu and Caroline Potter

Kitty’s DPhil thesis, Once More to the Body: an Ethnography of Mindfulness Practitioners in the United Kingdom (submitted, April 2017), is supervised by Prof. Elisabeth Hsu and Dr Caroline Potter. Drawing on fifteen months of ethnographic fieldwork, it explores techniques of self-cultivation among participants and practitioners of Mindfulness-based Cognitive Therapy. This psychotherapeutic intervention is derived from Buddhist meditation and cognitive therapy. Highlighting the paradoxes that occur as mindfulness emerges in evidence-based medicine and psychotherapy, her thesis asks what it means to be a mindfulness practitioner in this context. She concludes that tensions such as that between 'compliance' and 'compassion' in mindfulness-based approaches are irreducible, but productive of new and dynamic forms of ‘mindful’ subjectivity.

The Reception and Transformation of Homeopathy in Japan

Yuri Nonami, Green Templeton College, 2015
Supervisor: Elisabeth Hsu and Takehiko Kariya

This thesis examines from a medical anthropological viewpoint how the practice of the newly imported complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) has been transplanted, received and transformed in Japan. More specifically, I focus on homeopathy, which was introduced into Japan in the late 1990s. To address the research question, I focus on the practice of homeopathy from an anthropological viewpoint. The adoption of any new form of medicine is affected by the prevailing medical, social and cultural context. So, how and why was homeopathy introduced into Japan in the late 1990s? I explore this question by focusing on three aspects of the reception of homeopathy in Japan: (1) the institutionalisation of the homeopathy, including the formation of associations of practitioners and homeopathic colleges; (2) the translation of the theory and practice of homeopathy by the practitioners into a culturally acceptable form; (3) the utilisation and consumption of homeopathy by the patients, their families and self-prescribers. Over eighteen months of fieldwork in Japan led me to focus on these three elements of homeopathic practice.

Regarding the theoretical framework, this mainly explores medical pluralism and the health care system in Japan from an anthropological perspective, and the globalisation and transmission of medicine. I argue that the success of homeopathy in Japan was largely thanks to the transmission strategies set by the founders of the colleges for lay homeopaths. Mothers in particular, concerned by worries over family health care, were drawn to this approach. Furthermore, I argue that this group not only became consistent users of homeopathy but also propagated the therapy through "mothers’ self-help groups", thereby creating a strong tie with the lay homeopaths. I argue that mothers gained a sense of empowerment through homeopathy. Within the Japanese health care system it was the popular sector that received and developed homeopathy.

Convention, control and creativity: the case of Chinese medicine in Singapore

Arielle Rittersmith, Green Templeton College, 2010
Supervisor: Elisabeth Hsu

The Singaporean government promotes the city-state as the 'biopolis of Asia', with the intention of bolstering their reputation for the most advanced biomedical facilities and research in the region. This politically-crafted image explicitly has not included 'traditional' medicine. Yet, despite their general day-to-day compliance with laws and state agendas, Singaporeans from all walks of life continue to use and practice Chinese medicine, sustaining an adaptive practice that eventually demanded acknowledgement (of a sort) by the state. Beginning with the observation that differing social, political and economic conditions generate variable manifestations of Chinese medicine around the world, this thesis examines facets of medical use and practice in Singapore, focusing on power dynamics, embodied experience and negotiations of convention and creativity. Theoretically and methodologically developed within medical anthropology, this study includes a range of perspectives, including patients, caregivers, physicians, educators, legislators, shop owners, entrepreneurs, researchers and students. Exploring individual and group creativity vis-à-vis state agendas, and environmental aspects of embodied experience, this broad scope considers contemporary medical practice in relation to government policies favouring international investment, urban redevelopment, healthcare regulation, 'multiracial' nationalism and the management of history and heritage.

Manufacturing Tibetan medicine. The creation of an industry and the moral economy of Tibetanness

Martin Saxer, Green Templeton College, 2010
Supervisors: Elisabeth Hsu and Charles Ramble

This thesis examines the recent creation of a Tibetan medicine industry in the People’s Republic of China. Within a mere decade hospital pharmacies throughout Tibet have been converted into pharmaceutical companies. Confronted with the logic of capital and profit, these companies now produce commodities for a nationwide market. While these developments are depicted as a big success by official China, they also meet with harsh criticism: medicine prices are on the rise and doctors complain that their quality is decreasing; the industry still relies extensively on wildcrafted herbs, which is seen as a threat to the survival of certain plant species; and the industrial application of traditional knowledge raises questions of intellectual property and cultural heritage. The quick and forced industrialisation touches upon much more than technical aspects of manufacturing Tibetan medicines. What is at stake is a fundamental (re-)manufacturing of Tibetan medicine as a system of knowledge and practice and its role in contemporary Tibet. The industry lies at the intersection of conflicting agendas and visions for Tibet. On the one hand, the industrial Tibetan medicine serves as an allegorical figure of Tibet’s rapid development and progress. The creation of an industry exemplifies the scope and speed of the Party State’s modernist schemes. On the other hand, Tibetan remedies are part of a booming “ethnicity industry”. They are marketed as products of ancient wisdom rather than science and modern technology. Industrial Tibetan medicine has emerged as a space in which Tibet as such is being discussed and shaped. My ethnography explores their tactics and strategies, their ethical reasoning and their engagement in the market not only for pills and remedies but also for Tibetanness – a market, I argue, that bears the characteristics of a moral economy at large, enmeshed in the global political spectacle that surrounds the “Tibet question” and China’s rise as a world power.

Heart Distress on the Sino-Tibetan frontier: History, Gender, Ecology and Ritual Practice in Tibetan Popular Perceptions and Experiences of Heart Distress (snying nad) and other illnesses in the Qinghai part of Amdo

Patrizia Bassini, St Cross College, Trinity Term 2007
Supervisors: Elisabeth Hsu and Charles Ramble

Stimulated by a marked tendency of medical anthropologists of Eastern medicines to explore “medical systems” in urban and institutional contexts, this thesis investigates health care from the home-base and the standpoint of ordinary people engaged in popular practices. This study attempts to answer questions such as: “What do we learn from the popular stance on health and illness?”, “What motivates the choice of health care?” and “Why is it important to consider popular perceptions and experiences of health and illness?” Through the analysis of the phenomenon of heart distress ( snying nad ) among other common illnesses such as gastric ( pho nad ) and gallbladder ( mkhris nad ) disorders, this thesis shows how people in rural areas in Amdo are creative agents of their own well-being. Patients explain heart distress as the outcome of shared and personal histories and the harmful influence of the sacred landscape they inhabit. The majority, however, are young brides who have to adjust to working hard in the household of often unsympathetic parents-in-law. Heart distress is not easy to overcome: habitual practices such as the hierarchy of food consumption in Tibetan households, for instance, constitute and express social and kin relations. These are embedded in a religious cosmology that constitutes an important determinant, together with the surrounding ecology, for the way people choose to treat other illnesses too. 

Perceptions of health, illness and healing in a Sichuan Village, China

Anna Lora-Wainwright, Green College, Michaelmas Term 2006
Supervisor: Elisabeth Hsu

This thesis explores attitudes to the body, illness and healing in contemporary rural China through the prism of Pierre Bourdieu's notion of habitus. It is divided in two parts. Part 1 shows that bodily dispositions articulate ways of engaging with one's surroundings and claims to authority and status. Hierarchies with regard to what constitutes a desirable body or a healthy diet are not stable but always disputed. Negotiations surrounding them are informative of wider social processes and serve to reproduce or challenge social relations and values. Part 2 examines bodily practices at times of illness through the case of oesophagus cancer. I highlight how family relationships are produced and contested through various practices of care, and that such relations engender particular bodily attitudes. Closer attention to practices during illness are therefore important for understanding how illness is experienced by all involved, but also how it intersects with family relations, attitudes to resources, strategies to secure them and invest them, and perceptions of the state and welfare provision. Employing habitus allows a closer grasp of the intricate processes through which family relations are formed, why families opt for particular forms of treatment and how the effectiveness of therapy is produced.

ArgO-EMR seminars

ArgO-EMR offers a meeting ground for anthropologists and researchers who adopt an anthropological orientation in the study of Eastern medicines and religions. We hold a fortnightly seminar and organise an international workshop once per year.

Ongoing events:

Michaelmas Term 2022

Acupuncture in Practice

Week 3: 26 October 2022

Paul Kadetz (Senior Lecturer, Institute for Global Health and Development, Queen Margaret University) 
“Rebel Medicine: The Politicisation of Acupuncture in the Philippines"

Week 5: 9 November 2022

Yangzihan Wang (Doctoral candidate, Faculty of Medical Sciences, University of Newcastle)
“The Practice of Acupuncture in the UK: How Regulation Moulds Expectations"

Week 7: 23 November 2022

Taewoo Kim (Professor of Medical History, College of Korean Medicine, Kyung Hee University)
“The Emergence of a New Traditional Acupuncture Practice in Korean Medicine"

Week 8: 30 November 2022

Lucia Candelise, Antoine Kernen, Jean-Marie Oppliger (ISS, Université de Lausanne)
“Chinese Medicines in Camerounian Medical Pluralism"

Past lectures and seminars:

Trinity Term 2022

Disability in Bhutan – Going Beyond the Medical Mode

Week 1: 27 April 2022

Matthew Schuelka (Lecturer for the Department of Organizational Leadership, Policy, and Development, College of Education and Human Development, University of Minnesota)
“Dreams of Birds Flying in the Sky Exploring the lives of persons with disabilities in the Himalayan country of Bhutan (film screening and discussion)"

Week 2: 4 May 2022

Joseph Calabrese (Reader of Medical Anthropology, Tutor of MSc Medical Anthropology, Department of Anthropology, University College London)
“Disability and psychiatric and neurological disorders in Bhutan"

Hilary Term 2022

Bioscientific Approaches to Chinese Medicine

Week 3: 2 February 2022

Fan Tai-ping (Emeritus Professor, Dept of Pharmacology, University of Cambridge)
“Innovations of traditional Chinese medicine and pharmacotherapy – a European perspective"

Week 5: 16 February 2022

Peter Seeberger (Professor of Chemistry, Free University of Berlin and Director, Department for Biomolecular Systems, Max-Planck Institute for Colloids and Interfaces, Potsdam)
“Exploring Artemisia annua in search for potential drugs to treat cancer and viral infections"

Week 7: 2 March 2022

Ma Yuling (University of Oxford)
“From Cell Biology to Systems Biology & Traditional Medicine"

Michaelmas Term 2021

Chinese medicine and COVID-19

Week 3: 27 October 2021

“COVID-19 and the Warmth factor disorders (wenyi)"

Week 5: 10 November 2021

Zhu Buxian and Ding Zewan (TCM doctor, Oxford, and Member of the Academy of TCM, Beijing) 
“Some simple recipes: composition and genealogy"

Week 7: 24 November 2021

Michael Huber (ABZ München, Director)
“Treat what you see! Dissecting a TCM case study"

Trinity Term 2021

Textual Scholars meet Conservation Biologists

Week 1: 28 April 2021

He Bian (Assistant Professor in History and East Asian Studies, Princeton University) 
“An emergent taste for exotica in the pharmacy texts of 18th century China"

Week 3: 12 May 2021

Natalie Köhle (Research Assistant Professor in History, Hong Kong Baptist University) 
“Eating tradition: toward a social history of donkey hide gelatin (e'jiao)"

Week 5: 26 May 2021

Dan Challender (James Martin Research Fellow, University of Oxford) 
“The trade and conservation of pangolins"

Week 7: 9 June 2021

Hubert Cheung (PhD graduate, University of Queensland, Australia) 
“Abating  great heat with xiniu powder: biodiversity costs and conservation solutions"

Hilary Term 2021

Pilgrimage and Healing in Tibet and the Himalayas

Week 1: 20 January 2021

Charles Ramble (EPHE, Sorbonne) 
“Why Go on Pilgrimage? Geomancy and the Transformational Powers of Sacred Places in Tibetan Buddhism and Bon"

Week 3: 3 February 2021

Will Tuladhar-Douglas (Research Fellow, Hamburg University) 
“Medicine Mountains along the Himalayas: Healing, Trade, and Ecology"

Week 5: 17 February 2021

Cat Hardie (Dept of Translation, Interpreting, and Intercultural Studies, Hong Kong Baptist University) 
“Karmic Healing in China's "Sacred Margins": Han Chinese Pilgrimage at Larung Gar"

Week 7: 3 March 2021

Hildegard Diemberger (Pembroke College, Cambridge) 
“Can Sacred Landscapes Heal? Reflections on Territorial Cults, Spirit Possession and Pilgrimage in Tibet and the Himalayas"

Week 8: 10 March 2021

Anna Sehnalova (ISCA & Wolfson College, Oxford)
"Summoning up the Forces of the Environment: Glaciers, Deities, Ancestors, and Treasures in Pilgrimage and Healing in East Tibet"

Michaelmas Term 2020


Week 2: 21 October 2020

Adam Yuet Chau (University of Cambridge) 
“Humans visiting gods; gods visiting gods: Chinese pilgrimage culture"

Week 6: 18 November 2020

John Tresh (University of London) 
Jhāna wars: the stakes of attention in post-Buddhism"

Week 7: 25 November 2020

Theresia Hofer (University of Bristol) 
“Touching objects of pilgrimage in Japan in the Minpaku National Museum of Ethnology"

Hilary Term 2020

Materia Medica in China: Past and Present

Week 1: 22 January 2020

Georges Métailié (French National Centre for Scientific Research / Alexandre Koyré Center, France) 
“TCM in Modern Local Pharmacopoeias Published Between the Years 1960-1980 in China"

Week 3: 5 February 2020

Taiping Fan (University of Cambridge) 
“Revitalizing Traditional Medicine: Opportunities and Challenges"

Week 5: 19 February 2020

Manuel Campinas (London School of Hygiene & Tropical Medicine) 
“Ethnic Qiang Medicines: Disputed Significance and Industrial Aspirations"

Week 7: 4 March 2020

Man Gu (China Academy of Chinese Medical Sciences, China) 
“A Comparative Study of Tianhui Medical Manuscripts and Huangdi Neijing "

Michaelmas Term 2019

Thick Translation Strategies for Chinese Medicine

Week 1: 16 October 2019

Yinquan Wang (Nanjing Agricultural University, China) 
“Michel Boym’s Translation of Chinese Medical Texts in the 17th Century"

Week 2: 23 October 2019

Sonya Pritzker (University of Alabama) 
“Interaction in the Living Translation of Chinese Medicine"

Week 5: 13 November 2019

Xiao Ye (Zhejiang Chinese Medical University, China) 
“Notes on the History of the Standardization of Traditional Chinese Medicine Terminology in the English Language"

Week 7: 27 November 2019

**This event has been postponed. Details of a new date will be added here shortly**

Nigel Wiseman (Chang Guang University, Taiwan) 
“Analysis and Analogy in Chinese Medicine: Making Sense of TCM Theory for Beginners"

Trinity Term 2019

Week 1: 1 May 2019

Hyunkoo Kim (University of Oxford) 
“Learning Sasang Constitutional Medicine (SCM): The Making of 'Constitutions' in a Standardized Setting"

Week 2: 8 May 2019

Chenxue Jiang (Nanjing University of Chinese Medicine) 
“Chinese Translation of The Transmission of Chinese Medicine: A Study of Thick Translation Strategies for Chinese Medicine"

Week 5: 29 May 2019

Xin Sun (Beijing University of Chinese Medicine) 
“Classical Formulae Containing Qinghao in Pre-modern Chinese Formularies: A Data Mining Study"

Week 6: 5 June 2019

Yuko Otake (University of Tokyo) 
“Judo as Therapy for the Everyday and in Emergency Settings: Case Studies from Japan"

Hilary Term 2019

Week 1: 16 January 2019

Parsa Daneshmand (University of Oxford) 
“Expression of Physical pain in Ancient Mesopotamian Texts"

Week 2: 23 January 2019

Katherine Southwood (University of Oxford) 
“Expressing Pain in the Internal Organs: Examples from the Psalms and Job"

Week 3: 30 January 2019

Ingrid Lilly (Pacific School of Religion, Archaeology, and Hebrew Bible, CA) 
“Fear of Affliction: Etiologies for Penetrating Pain in the Hebrew Bible and Cognate Literature"

Week 5: 13 February 2019

Vincent Gossaert (Ecole Pratique des Haute Etudes, PSL, Paris) 
“Suffering and Spiritual Exercises in Modern Chinese Piety Books"

Week 7: 27 February 2019

Benedetta Lomi (University of Bristol) 
“Representing Pain in Medieval Japan: The Scrolls of Afflictions"

Michaelmas Term 2018

Staple Foods in East Asia: Archaeological and Anthropological Approaches

Week 1: 10 October 2018

Dr Anke Hein (University of Oxford) 
“Cooking and Eating in Early Northwest China"

Week 3: 24 October 2018

Professor Martin Jones (University of Cambridge) 
“Reimagining Agriculture Through the Lens of the Asian Small Grained Cereals (Millets) "

Week 5: 7 November 2018

Professr Dorian Fuller (University College London) 
“Beyond the Bread Frontier: Sticky Rice, Millet Porridge and Grain Wines in the Definition of a Civilizational Area"

Week 7: 21 November 2018

Professor Elisabeth Hsu, Dr Franz Huber, Dr Caroline Weckerle (Universities of Oxford and Zürich) 
“Rice Boiling Among the Shuhi of Southwest China, and the Convergence of Soul Substances"

Trinity Term 2018

Wrapping up the year's series

Week 4: 16 May 2018

Dr Kitty Wheater (ISCA, University of Oxford) 
“'Someone Like You, Someone Like Me': Difference and Doubt in Mindfulness-based Interventions in the United Kingdom"

Week 5: 23 May 2018

Dr Maddalena Procopio (International Relations Department, London School of Economics) 
“The Natural products Initiative: Kenyan and Chinese Traditional Medicines Meet"

Hilary Term 2018

The Anthropology of Doubt in Eastern Medicines and Religions

Week 1: 17 January 2018

Dr Ehler Voss (Department of Media Studies, University of Siegen) 
“The Evidence of Doubts: Researching Controversies Between Religion and the Secular"

Week 3: 31 January 2018

Dr Katherine Swancutt (Department of Theology & Religious Studies, King’s College London) 
“Doubt, Debate, and the Relationship between Heaven and Empire in Southwest China"

Week 5: 14 February 2018

Dr Jonathan Mair (School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent) 
“'From Faith, Fortune; From Doubt, Ill Health': A Metacognitive Approach to Popular Buddhism in Contemporary Inner Mongolia"

Week 7: 28 February 2018

Catherine Hardie (ISCA, University of Oxford) 
“Doubt and Divided Selves in the Contemporary Sino-Tibetan Buddhist Encounter"

Week 8: 7 March 2018 (postponed until Trinity Term 2018)

Dr Kitty Wheater (ISCA, University of Oxford) 
“'Someone Like You, Someone Like Me': Difference and Doubt in Mindfulness-based Interventions in the United Kingdom"

Michaelmas Term 2017

Innovative initiatives in Chinese and African medical fields

Week 1: 11 October 2017

Professor Zhang Shujian (Nanjing TCM University, Visiting Scholar at HPS, University of Cambridge) 
“Zhu Lian and the new acupuncture of the 1950s' China"

Week 3: 25 October 2017

No seminar

Week 5: 8 November 2017

Dr Marlee Tichenor (Usher Institute, University of Edinburgh) 
Artemisia annua tea, the regulation of Artemisinin, and the fight against malaria in Senegal"

Week 7: 22 November 2017 (postponed until Trinity Term 2018)

Dr Maddalena Procopio (International Relations Department, London School of Economics) 
“The Natural Products Initiative: Kenyan and Chinese traditional medicines meet"

Trinity Term 2017

Socialities of the Hearth

Week 2: 3 May

Dr Charlotte Bruckermann (Max Planck Institute for Social Anthropology) 
“The mistress of the hearth: female mobility, domestic divinities, and reproductive power in North Central China"

Week 3: 10 May

Prof. Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford), with Dr. Franz Huber and Dr. Caroline Weckerle (University of Zurich) 
“Condensing life substances in the house: In everyday rituals of the Shuhi and Pumi of Southwest China"

Week 5: 24 May

Professors Yuan Zhang and Yun Tang (School of Ethnic Studies, Southwest Minzu University, Chengdu, PR China) 
“The fear of pollution: Bönpo purification rituals in Western Sichuan"

Week 7: 7 June

 Elizabeth Elliott (Department of Medical Anthropology, University College London) 
“Tying the souls and binding relationships in the Lao home: metaphor, performance and tactility"

Hilary Term 2017

Transforming the Body Through Dance

Week 1: 18 January

Dr Ann R. David (Department of Dance, University of Roehampton) 
“Transformation through ritual: bodies as sacred space"

Week 3: 1 February

Nasima Selim (Institut für Sozial- und Kulturanthropologie, Freie Universität Berlin) 
“Learning how to whirl: subtle and material bodies in 'Dervish Dance'"

Week 5: 15 February

Dr Paola Esposito (ISCA, University of Oxford) 
“Becoming caterpillar: a perspective on 'metamorphosis' through Butoh dance"

Week 7: 1 March

Dr Felicia Hughes-Freeland (Department of the Languages and Cultures of South East Asia, SOAS) 
“Embodied consciousness: the power of movement in Javanese dance"

Michaelmas Term 2016

Botanical Ontologies in Asian Medicine

Week 1: 12 October

Jan M.A. van der Valk (School of Anthropology and Conservation, University of Kent) 
“Testing Tibetan materia medica scientifically: Hybrid ontologies in practice?"

Week 3: 26 October

Dr Calum Blaikie (Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences) 
“Re-routing rhizomes: Himalayan plants and properties in transit"

Week 5: 9 November

Dr Stephan Kloos (Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences) 
“Reassembling Sowa Rigpa: From traditional culture to plant-based knowledge industries"

Week 7: 23 November

Manuel Campinas (London School of Hygiene and Tropical Medicine) 
“A comparative exposition of Chinese and Russian botanical ontologies"

Trinity Term 2016

Bio-Politics in East Asia

Week 1: 27 January

Seonsam Na (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford) 
“The Elephant in the Room: the Bio-Medicalization of Korean Medicine"

Week 2: 3 May

Heonik Kwon (Trinity College, University of Cambridge) 
“Foreign Ideas and the Body Politic: New Findings on Cold War Social Pathology"

Week 3: 11 May

Akihito Suzuki (School of Economics, Keio University, Japan) 
“Poisons, Possession, and Bacteriology in Modern Japan: Integration of Socio-Cultural Concepts and Biomedical Practices in the Late Nineteenth Century"

Hilary Term 2016

Divination in Mesopotamia and China

Week 1: 20 January

Selena Wisnom (Wolfson College, University of Oxford) 
“'If the Liver is a Mirror of the Sky...' Sacrificial Divination in Ancient Mesopotamia"

Week 3: 3 February

Xing Wang (Oriental Studies, University College, University of Oxford) 
“Fortune-Telling and the Medical Body in Chinese Physiognomy"

Week 5: 17 February

Jeanette Fincke (CNRS, Ivry-sur-Seine / University of Leiden) 
“The Stars of Babylonia: How Mesopotamian Diviners Used the Stars for Their Predictions"

Week 7: 2 March

Barend ter Haar (Chinese Studies, University of Oxford China Centre) 
“The Oracle of Lord Guan"

Michaelmas Term 2015

The Practice of Care in South Asia and Beyond

Week 1: 14 October

Helen Lambert (School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol) 
“Bone Doctors and the Management of Injury in Rajasthan"

Week 3: 28 October

Stefan Ecks (Social Anthropology, University of Edinburgh) 
“Multiple Ontologies of Medications in India"

Week 5: 11 November

Arielle Smith (Cermes3 - a joint unit of CNRS, EHESS and Inserm, Paris) 
“Care of the Nation, Care of the Self in Singapore"

Week 7: 25 November

Tania Porqueddu (Nuffield Department of Primary Care Health Sciences, Oxford) 
“Type 2 Diabetes Self Care Practices among Indian and Pakistani Migrants in Scotland"

Hilary Term 2015

Tea-tasting and Well-Being

Week 1: 21 January

Kunbing Xiao (Research Institute of the Minorities in Southwest China, Southwest University for Nationalities) 
“Tea Tasting and Bodily Perception: the Embodied Social Structure in Bohea" With tea tasting led by Bohan Thomas

Week 3: 4 February

Kristin Surak (School of Oriental and African Studies, University of London) 
“What is behind 'Peacefulness through a Bowl of Tea'"

Week 5: 18 February

Merlin Willcox (Nuffield Dept of Primary Care Health Services, University of Oxford) 
“Herbal teas for malaria: recent researches on Argemone mexicana in Mali and the Artemisia annua teas"

Week 7: 4 March

Alan Macfarlane (Department of Social Anthropology, University of Cambridge) 
“The Mystery of Tea"


Michaelmas Term 2014

Week 1: 15 October

Lelung Tulku (Lelung Dharma Institute, London) 
“Power of the Mind and its Daily Life Impacts"

Week 3: 29 October

Dr Steven Stanley (School of Social Sciences, Cardiff University) 
“Mindfulness: Psychological, Social and Historical Dimensions"

Week 5: 12 November

Gelong Thubten (Kagyu Samye Ling Monastery, Scotland, and ROKPA Switzerland) 
“Meditation and its Effect on Emotional and Spiritual Growth"

Week 7: 26 November

Ms Kitty Wheater (ISCA, DPhil cand., University of Oxford) 
“Practice and its Problems: Effecting Personal Growth among Secular Mindfulness Practitioners in the UK"

Trinity Term 2014

Week 1: 30 April

Mr Ramesh Pattni (Faculty of Theology and Religion, University of Oxford) 
“Suffering: Causes and Cures, a Classical Yoga Perspective"

Week 3: 14 May

Dr Robert Lai (Manchester Institute of Innovation Research, University of Manchester) 
“What is Chinese Medicine? An Evolutionary System of Innovation Perspective"

Week 4: 22-23 May

Argo-EMR workshop (2-6.30 and 9-2) 
The Transmission of Tibetan Medicine: Spiritual Growth, Questions of Method and Contemporary Practice, in the context of the project by Dr. Mingji Cuomu: 'Sacred Transmission in Tibetan Medicine’
Convenors: Elisabeth Hsu and Yunju Chen  

Hilary Term 2014

Interdisciplinary Studies

Week 1: 22 January

Mieke Matthyssen (Department of Chinese Language and Culture, University of Ghent)
"The art of "being muddled": from ancient wisdom to pragmatic coping strategy in contemporary China, and beyond"

Week 3: 5 February

Qiaosheng Dong (Faculty of Classics, University of Cambridge)
"Reflections on comparative methodology: thinking through the comparison of ancient Greek and Chinese embryology"

Week 5: 19 February

James Mallinson (Department of Languages and Cultures: Sanskrit, SOAS) 
"Yogi traditions at the Kumbh Mela Festival" 

Week 7: 5 March

Michael Stanley-Baker (MPI for the History of Science, Berlin) 
"Situated knowing: charting medical diversity in medieval China"

Michaelmas Term 2013

Buddhism, Healing, and the Perfection of Self

Week 1: 16 October

Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford)
"On the interface of religion, medicine, and the martial arts: Yijinjing meditation as an emblem of late Ming syncretism (Buddhist-Daoist-Confucianist)"

Week 3: 30 October

Jo Cook (University College London)
"Not getting happy through mindfulness-based cognitive therapy"

Week 4: 6 November

Lucia Dolce (SOAS) 
"How to generate the perfect body: embryology and tantric rituals from medieval Japanese manuscripts" 

Trinity Term 2013

Week 1: 24 April

Prof Zhang Shiya (Centre for Studies in Education and Psychology of Ethnic Minorities in SW China, Southeastern University)
"The silk culture of the Yao, and the making of religion, identity and health"

Week 3: 8 May

Florence Gurung (Dept of Theology, University of Oxford)
"Going here, going there: how Gurungs in the UK navigate this-worldly concerns"

Week 5: 22 May

Dr Trina Ward (Dept of Primary Care, Warminster University) 
"'Epistemological diversity of Chinese medicine: a Q methodology study"

Hilary Term 2013

Week 1: 16 January

Dr Caroline Meier zu Biesen (Department of Anthropology, Free University of Berlin)
"The rise to prominence of Artemisia annua L.: Transformation of a Chinese plant to a global pharmaceutical"

Week 3: 30 January

Markus Schiesser (Shanghai and ISCA, University of Oxford)
"Pumi rituals in Muli county, Sichuan province, PR China: Work in progress on an ethnographic film"

Week 5: 13 February

Dr Mingji Cuomu (ISCA, University of Oxford) 
"'Sacred' transmission in the Tibetan medical context"

Week 6: 20 February

Prof William Sax (South Asia Institute, University of Heidelberg)
"Religion, healing and 'resistance' in the western Himalayas"

Week 8: 6 March

Dr Leon Antonia Rocha (Emmanuel College, University of Cambridge)
"Making 'Acubabies': Popular manuals on Chinese medicine and reproductive technologies"

Week 8: 7 March

Dr Xiaoping Fang (University of Technology, Sydney)
"The medical world of Chinese villages after 1949 from the perspective of medical anthropology" 

Michaelmas Term 2012: On Ethnographic Dreams, Anthropological Ethics and Contigency in Southwest China

Katherine Swancutt (ISCA, University of Oxford)

Week 1: 10 October

"'The Ethnographic Dream': Doing Fieldwork among Native Scholars and Shamans"

Week 2: 17 October

"Fame, Fate and Fortune: The Life of Contingency and Accomplishment"

Week 5: 7 November

"The Ethics of Ritualistic Warfare and the Fullness of Life"

Week 7: 21 November

"Animism, Irony and Environmental Politics in China"


Trinity Term 2012: Ritual Innovation

Week 2: 2 May

Yuri Nonami (ISCA, University of Oxford; Professor of English, Otemae University)
"Who wants to be a healer? Homeopathic practitioners in Japan"

Week 4: 16 May

Prof Yang Honglin (Yunnan Academy of Social Sciences; Visiting Scholar with ArgO-EMR)
"Tiger Day (23 min film): How Yi Bimo deal with drug abuse"

Week 6: 30 May

Jason Johnson (ISCA, University of Oxford) 
"From Daoist ritual space to clinical treatment place: Innovations in the use of Sun Simiao's ghost points"

Week 8: 13 June

Dr Katherine Swancutt (ISCA, University of Oxford)
To be announced

Week 9: 20 June

Prof Shin Dongwon (KAIST, Daejon; Visiting Scholar at Needham Research Institute)
"A ritual of healing and salvation in the Buddhistic paintings in the Late Choson Era"

Hilary Term 2012: Managing Malaria and Other Epidemics in Pre-modern China

Week 1: 18 January

Elisabeth Hsu (ISCA, University of Oxford)
"The herbal antimalarial qinghao in the materia medica (bencao)"

Week 3: 1 February 

Wu Zhongping (Shanghai TCM University; Visiting Scholar with ArgO-EMR)
"The polypharmacy of qinghao in the formulary literature (fangji)"

Week 5: 15 February

Chen Yunju (Institute of Chinese Studies, University of Oxford) 
"The threat of accumulations and blockages causing epidemics in urban Song China (960 – 1279)"

Week 8: 7 March 

Marta Hanson (Institute for the History of Medicine, Johns Hopkins University, Baltimore)
"Epidemiological crises, epistemological divisions: the new discourse on epidemics in 17th-18th century China"

Michaelmas Term 2011: Polysemic Qi

Week 1: 12 October

Hans-Georg Moeller (Senior Lecturer, Department of Philosophy, University College Cork)
"Qi in pre-Qin China"

Week 3: 26 October

Elisabeth Hsu (Professor of Anthropology, ISCA, University of Oxford)
"Qi in early Chinese pulse diagnostics"

Week 5: 9 November

Yousang Baik (Professor of Traditional Medical Literature, Kyunghee University, Seoul and Visiting fellow, Argo-EMR, University of Oxford)
"Qi and li in Neoconfucianism and Korean traditional medicine"

Week 7: 23 November

Volker Scheid (Director of the EAST medicine research unit, University of Westminster)
"Qi in the genre of Chinese formularies (fangjixue)"


Trinity Term 2011: Eurasian Perspectives

Week 3: 18 May

Prof. Keith Howard (Professor of Music, School of Oriental and African Studies)
"Shamanism, music and dance in Siberia: institutionalising ritual and performance"

Week 4: 25 May

Dr Frederick Shih-Chung Chen (Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford)
"Between alchemy and medicine in early medieval China"

Week 5: 1 June

Ilona Manevskaia (School of Languages, Linguistics and Cultures, University of Manchester)
"Practitioners of Tibetan Medicine and their Patients in Russia: Drifting between Two Cultures"

Hilary Term 2011: Ethnobotany and the materia medica of Asian medicines

Week 1: 19 January

Dr Barbara Gerke (Postdoctoral Associate ISCA, University of Oxford and Department of Central Asian Studies, Humboldt University, Berlin)
"Translating medical ideas and research approaches in a research team of
traditional Tibetan and Western biomedical doctors"

Week 3: 2 February

Dr Ian McGonigle (King’s College Cambridge)
"Ginkgo biloba: Ancient tree, traditional medicine and potential recent developments and anthropological reflections"

Week 5: 16 February

Dr Qian Qin (Visiting Scholar, St. Antonys College, Oxford, and School of International Relations and Public Affairs, Shanghai)
"Comparative Statutory Regulation of Traditional Chinese Medicine: UK and China"

Week 7: 2 March

Dr Gabriel Lefèvre (Postdoctoral Associate ISCA, University of Oxford)
"Diviner-healers and plant-words in south-western Madagascar"

Michaelmas Term 2010: Music in Shamanic Religion

Week 1: 13th October

Prof. Boudewijn Walraven (Director of Korean Studies, University of Leiden)
"Music and efficacy in Korean shamanic rituals"

Week 3: 27th October

Dr Simon Mills (Department of Music, University of Durham)
"Transforming and Transporting the spirit: healing music in Korean shamanic ritual"

Week 5: 10th November

Dr Anna Stirr (Faculty of Music and St John's College, University of Oxford)
"Spirit possession and the ordinary on Nepali music and culture"

Week 7: 24th November

Prof. Helen Rees (Department of Ethnomusicology, UCLA)
"Ritual performance in Southwest China: what we can learn from the music"

Trinity Term 2010: Miscellaneous Current Issues

Week 1: 28th April

Dr Gladys Chicharro, (Assistant Professor, Paris 8 University, EXPERICE) "Excellent birth, excellent rearing": The gyn-androus, only—child generation in the PRC and its body-mind

Week 2: 5th May

Prof Naiqun Weng (CASS and Nationalities University, Beijing)
"The belief and practice of du (poison) among the Naze in Southwest China”

Week 3: No Seminar

Week 4: Thursday 20th May 5pm - The Institute of Chinese Studies

Prof Wu Guo, (Sichuan University)
"The Taoist Jingming sect's approach to self cultivation"

Week 5: 26th May

Yuri Nonami, (DPhil candidate, ISCA, University of Oxford)
"Narratives in a homeopathic clinic in Japan"

Hilary Term 2010: Eastern Cultivational Arts and Preventive Healthcare

All seminars were presented by Dr Lim Cheehan, Green Templeton College Visiting Scholar in Medical Anthropology.

Week 1 : 20th January

The ‘three bodies’: human ontology, ‘energy’, and healthcare in the qigong, martial, and military traditions (an introduction)

Week 3 : 3rd February

The qigong vs. the military body

Week 5 : 17th February

The martial vs. the military body

Week 7 : 3rd March

A synthesis: healthcare lessons from the ‘three bodies’

Michaelmas Term 2009: Medicine and commerce

Week 1  : 14th October       no seminar

Week 3  : 28th November  
Martin Saxer (ISCA, University of Oxford)
Tibet in capsules: state, business, and moral economies in the creation of an industry 

Week 5  : 11th November        

Dr. Ikumi Okamoto John Fell fellow (ISCA, University of Oxford)
‘I want to cure cancer by increasing tairyoku (body power)’: use of tairyoku by patients and the wellness industry in Japan

Week 7 : 25th November

Dr. Mikkel Bunkenborg (Institute of Anthropology, University of Copenhagen)
Subhealth, supplements, and sudden death: The discursive construction and popular practice of suboptimal health in contemporary China

Trinity Term 2009: Chinese nurturing life practices

Week 1 : 29th April

Dr. Dominique Hertzer (East West Institute, Utting, Germany)
Contemporary yangsheng practices and the art or nurturing life in the Zhuangzi

Week 2: 6th May

Prof. Kristofer Schipper (Ecole Pratique des Hautes Etudes, Paris, and Leiden University
The foods of longevity: food, drug and longevity in a comparative perspective, with special reference to China

Week 3 : 13th May

Prof. Terry Kleeman (Asian Languages and Civilizations, University of Colorado)
Ritual, merit and apotheosis among the Red-head Daoist priests of N. Taiwan

Week  4 : 20th May

Mr. Zhu Guangli (Asian Studies, Edinburgh University and School of Liberal Arts, Nanjing University)
An introduction to the history and practice of taijiquan

Week  5 : 27th May

Mrs. Paula Hung (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)
Union of heaven and human: the infinite goal of inner alchemy

Hilary Term 2009: Chinese medicine in practice

Week 1: 21st Jan 
Prof. Monique Simmonds (Kew Gardens, London)
TCM in the west: challenges and opportunities

Week 3: 4th Feb
Dr. Angelika C. Messner (Orientalistik, Chinese Studies, Kiel University, Germany)
New perspectives on the history of emotions

Week 5: 18th Feb
Dr. Vivienne Lo (University College, London)
Chinese medicine in the UK: class, gender and ethnicity

Week  7: 4th March
Arielle Rittersmith (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)
Singaporean Chinese food and medicine: nurturing the social

Michaelmas Term 2008: South Asian bodies and medicine

Week 1: 15 Oct 2008

Suzanne Newcombe (Inform and Open University)
Yoga and Ayurveda in the 20th Century: For Whose Bodies?

Week 3: 29 Oct 2008
Claudia Merli (Uppsala University, Sweden)
The Hardening of Female Physiology: A Foucauldian Analysis of Reproductive Health Practices and Governmentality in Southern Thailand.

Week 5: 12 Nov 2008
Sondra Hausner (University of Oxford)
The Ascetic Body.

Week 7: 26 Nov
Caroline Wilson (University of Sussex)
Consuming Bodies: Fear, Luxury and Choices in Kerala, South India.

Trinity Term 2008: Health and ecology

Week 2: 30 April 2008 
Elisabeth Hsu (ISCA, University of Oxford)
The Body Ecologic in Chinese Medicine: an Update

Week 3: 7 May 2008 
Theresia Hofer (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine at UCL)
Health and Environment in Tibet – Medical, Social and Cosmological Perspectives

Week 5: 21 May 2008 
Anna Lora-Wainwright (British Interuniversity China Centre, University of Manchester)
Politicised Environment and the Causes of Cancer in Rural Sichuan, China

Hilary Term 2008: Healing in the Himalaya

Week 1: 16 January 2008
David Gellner (ISCA, University of Oxford)
Healing in the Katmandu Valley

Week 3: 30 January 2008 
Anne De Sales (Maison Française, Oxford; CNRS, Paris)
Shamanic Practices in the Western Himalaya

Week 5: 13 February 2008 
Brandon Dotson (SOAS, London)
Upstream/Downstream: Directionality in Early Tibetan Ritual Texts

Week 7: 27 February 2008 
Aurélie Névot (CNRS and EHESS)
The Trip of the Solar and the Lunar Souls during the Funeral Treatment of the Body

Additional seminar:

Week 8: 5 March 
Elena Valussi (Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations of the University of Venice, Ca' Foscari)
Blood, Tigers, Dragons: the Physiology of Transcendence for Daoist Women.

Michelmas Term 2007: Eastern medicines and religions in Britain

Week 1: 10 Oct 
Volker Scheid: (University of Westminster, London)
The Value of History and Anthropology for Clinical Research: Chinese Medicine
and Menopause in the UK.
Week 3: 24 Oct
Gretchen De Soriano (translator of Kampo Ancient & Modern by Otsuka Keisetsu)
The Abdominal Diagnosis in Japanese Medicine: a Demonstration & Discussion.
Week 5: 7 Nov
Alexandra Ryan (Open University)
Energy and Embodiment: Practice, Fieldwork and Theory Issues in Taijiquan (a
Chinese Martial Art).
Week 7: 21 Nov
Maria Tighe (Bristol University)
Reflexology and Acupuncture in the UK: a Practitioner Research Perspective.

Trinity Term 2007

Week 1: 25 April 
Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford)
Outline of the history of Chinese medicine in the PRC: from "invented
tradition" to "alternative modernity".
Week 2: 2 May 
Peter Clarke (Wolfson College)
The response to Japanese healing in three cultures: Brazilian, Thai and
Week 3: 9 May
Lena Springer (University of Vienna, Austria)
How to become a TCM physician - Four cases.
Week 4: 16 May
Laurent Pordié (French Institute of Pondicherry, India and Université
Cézanne d'Aix-Marseille (UPCAM), France)
Religious Collisions in Tibetan Medicine. Ethnography of a Muslim Practitioner.

Hilary Term 2007

Week 1: 16 Jan
Patrizia Bassini (University of Oxford)
Women’s bodies and notions of pollution in Amdo.
Week 3: 30 Jan
Martin Saxer (University of Oxford)
Journeys with Tibetan Medicine: How Tibetan Medicine came to the West. The
story of the Badmayev family.
Week 5: 13 Feb
Yosuke Shimazono (University of Oxford)
Cultural and Ethical Aspects of Organ Transplantation in the Philippines.
Week 7: 27 Feb
Mingkyi Tshomo (Tibetan Medical College, Lhasa & Humboldt University, Berlin)
Traditional Tibetan Medicine and Clinical Trials.

Michaelmas Term 2006

Week 1: 10 Oct
Katherine Swancutt (University of Oxford)
Sense, Theory and Thought: Soul Loss in Mongolia
Week 3: 24 Oct
Junko Iida (Kawasaki University of Medical Welfare, Japan)
The sensory Experience of Thai Massage: Urbanization, Globalization and
Week 5: 7 Nov 
Mingkyi Tsomo (Tibetan Medical College, Lhasa & Humboldt University, Berlin)
Tibetan Traditional Buddhism and Medicine, was scheduled but ad hoc spoke
Barbara Gerke (Oriental Studies and ISCA, University of Oxford)
Blessing the Pills: Pharmacology and Religion in Tibetan Medicine

Week 7: 21 Nov 
Juliet Bedford (University of Oxford)
Jungle forts and Leprosy: The Orang Asli of Peninsular Malaysia

Moments of Meeting: a critical medical anthropology workshop

Friday 13 September
Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road


Gesture, Body and Language in Tibet and the Himalayas

Tuesday 25 June 2019
Wolfson College, University of Oxford

Further information.

Programme and abstracts.

Self Care: East and West

Thursday 11 January 2018
Human Sciences Pauling Centre, University of Oxford; 58a Banbury Road

This interactive workshop is co-organised with the Depart of Education, University of Aberdeen

Two recent doctoral theses on technologies of the self, and in this sense on self care, are at focus in this workshop, one is discussed by master’s students in the morning, the other in the afternoon.

Domestic Interiors: Gender, Ethics, and Friendship in Jordan, DPhil thesis by Susan MacDougall
Chapter 4. Time, autonomy, and slowness: the moral significance of cooking and eating
Chapter 5. Body talk, health discourses, and self-knowledge
Chapter 6. Sincerity, dishonesty, and intimacy

Healing Nature:
Green Living and the Politics of Hope in Hong Kong, DPhil thesis by Loretta Lou
Introduction, Chapter 3. Healing Nature, Recycling Self, Chapter 5. Being Green and Being ‘Good’

8  - 9.15 am         Somatic movement for wellbeing, led by Anna Dako in GTC gardens 

10 - 11.30 am      Discussion of self care in Jordan in Domestic interiors, chs 4-6, by S. MacDougall

11.30-12 pm       “Seeing Dust: Space, Senses and the Gender of Self Care in Jordan” by Dr Susan MacDougall, ISCA, SAME, University of Oxford

12-2 pm                lunch

2-3.30 pm            Discussion of self care in Hongkong in Healing Nature, intro, chs 3, 5, by L. Lou

3.30-4pm             “Green Living as Technologies of the Self” by Dr Loretta Lou, ISCA, SAME, University of Oxford

4-4.30 pm            tea

4.30-6 pm            Introduction to mindfulness practice in the UK by Dr Kitty Wheater


Chinese Medical Formulae for Treating Depletion Patterns: Historians meet Practitioners

8-9 December 2014
Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford

Monday 8 December

Marta Hanson (Johns Hopkins University)
Interpreting pulses and depletion disorders in Zhang Shixian’s 張世賢 Illustrated Commentary on Pulse Rhymes (Tu zhu maijue 圖註脈訣, preface 1510): a philological foundation for understanding its Latin translation in Michael Boym/Andrea Cleyer’s Specimen Medicinae Sinicae, 1682

Leslie de Vries (University of Westminster)
Formulas and cosmology in the late Ming dynasty: a comparison of Zhao Xianke's  
趙獻可 and Zhang Jiebin's 張介賓 elaborations on Xue Ji's 薛己 style of replenishing medicine

Hugh MacPherson (University of York)
TCM diagnostic patterns of repletion and depletion in patients with chronic neck pain, and how they affect treatment results

Simon Becker (Lake Hospital Horgen) 
Stasis and accumulation as cause of depletion and aging

Gry Sagli (University of Oslo) 
Introductory thoughts to the Discussion, and Discussion

Tuesday 9 December

Zhu Buxian (presentation given in Chinese)
Examining conditions of a Depletion within a Repletion (shilun shi zhong zhi xu 

Chen Yunju 陳韻如 (DPhil cand, University of Oxford)
The treatments of zhang 瘴 ("miasma") in Song China (960-1279): the depleted body and perceived environmental Influences 

Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford)
The treatments of zhang 瘴 ("miasma") in Song China (960-1279): the depleted body and perceived environmental Influences

The Transmission of Tibetan Medicine: Spiritual Growth, Questions of Method and Contemporary Practice

22-23 May 2014
Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford

Thursday 22 May

Khenpo Tsultrim Lodro (Dean of Serthar Buddhist Institute)
The application of the sacred transmissions in the Buddhist context

Mingji Cuomu (ISCA, University of Oxford)
Sacred transmissions: the concept and its significance

Geoffrey Samuel (Cardiff University & University of Sydney)
The Yuthong Nyingthig: the lineage of spiritual practices associated with Tibetan medicine

Lama Dietschy (physician of Arig family heritage), Mona Schrempf (Wellcome Trust Fellow, University of Westminster, London)
The Arig family lineage of physicians

Friday 23 May

Sienna Craig (Anthropology Department, Dartmouth University), Barbara Gerke, Theresa Hofer, Calum Blake
Empowering medicine: authority, embodied practice, ritual events

Stephen Kloos (Austrian Academy of Sciences)
Tibetan medical education in exile

Colin Millard (Queen Mary, University of London)
A comparative study of Tibetan medical education

Lucham Gyal (Dean of Qinghai Tibetan Medical College)
Sacred transmission in Tibetan medical education

Roundtable discussion with Tibetan Medical Practitioners

Icons and Innovations in the Reading and Performing of Ritual Texts

12-13 September 2012
Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road, Oxford
Funded by the Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC)

This workshop foregrounds the importance of ritual practice for the exegesis of ritual text: it diverts the focus of (ritual) text as the means for reproducing social conventions, and focuses on how religious specialists, their clients and even the texts themselves interact in practices that trigger religious change. The workshop explores in particular whether and if, how the materiality of the form in which ritual meanings are transmitted, e.g. the notation of ritual texts, affects the creativity of shamans and other ritual specialists when they perform and re-enact these rituals. 

Wednesday 12 September

Elisabeth Hsu (University of Oxford)
Introductory remarks, relating to the Yijinjing (Canon on how to transform one's Sinews)

Gil Raz (Dartmouth College)
Man-bird Mountain Chart: Image, Text, Ritual and Innovation in Medieval Daoism

Rudolph Pfister (Basel)
Performing the Inner Work of Self-Transformation and the Linguistic Spheres of its Symbolic Description in the Technical Language of "Mister Chen's Instructions on the Inner Cinnebar"

Stephan Bumbacher (University of Zürich)
Fu-talismans: Innovative Adaptations of "Secular" Techniques to "Religious" Rituals

Xu Fei (University of Sichuan and Academic Visitor, University of Oxford)
Fu-talismans in the Bodleian Library's Yao Manuscripts, some brief remarks

Thursday 13 September

Aurélie Névot (CNRS (France))
Innovation as Embodiment in the Transmission Process of Yi bimo-Shamanisms

Michael Oppitz (University of Zurich)
Books Flapping in the Wind

Roundtable discussion with Visiting Fellows at the University of Oxford working on related themes:

Yao Jue (University of Yunnan) on the Yunnan-Lue adoption of Pali script for healing ceremonial texts;
Zhang Jianjun (University of Shanghai) on the Shijing;
Zhang Ruqing (Shanghai TCM University) on script-based misunderstandings in the history of Chinese medicine. 

Korean integrated healthcare: what can be learned for CAM and the NHS in the UK? Medical Anthropology and Policy Perspectives

22 October 2011
Osler McGovern Centre, 13 Norham Gardens, Oxford
Funded by Green Templeton College, University of Oxford

Elisabeth Hsu (Professor of Anthropology and GTC Fellow, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford) 
Some Reflections on Korean Medicine in South Korean Health Care.

Eunjeong Ma (Visiting Assistant Professor, Department of Humanities and Social Sciences, Pohang University of Science and Technology)
Setting the Scene: the Iconicity of the Korean Medicine - Pharmacy debate for South Korean Health Care.

Comments by Seonsam Na (KMD) (PRS student, Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford).

Jongyoung Kim (Assistant Professor, Department of Sociology, Kyunghee University)
Making Hybrid Medicine: How Science Policy drives Korean Medicine’s Transformations and Powerscapes. 

Comments by Denis Noble (Professor Emeritus and Co-Director of Computational Physiology, Department of Anatomy, Physiology and Genetics, University of Oxford) and Bleddyn Davies (Emeritus Professor of Social Policy, Personal Social Services Research Unit, LSE, Professorial Fellow, Oxford Institute of Population Aging, University of Oxford).

Taewoo Kim (Contractual Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Chonnam National University)
Objectification in Biomedicine, Intentionality in Korean Medicine: An Anthropological Study of Divergent Medical Perceptions in South Korea.

Comments by Inseok Yeo (Associate Professor, Department of Medical History, Yonsei University College of Medicine) and Mark Harrison (Professor of History of Medicine and GTC Fellow, Wellcome Institute for History of Medicine, University of Oxford).

The Viewpoint of the Technique: Managing Time and Crisis Resolution in Eastern Religions and Medicines

28-29 January 2010
Osler McGovern Centre, 13 Norham Gardens, Oxford

Thursday 28 January

Katherine Swancutt (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)
Opening Remarks

Piers Vitebsky (Scott Polar Research Institute, University of Cambridge)
How does technique lead to agency in dialogues between the living and the dead?

Anne de Sales (Laboratoire D’ethnologie et de Sociologie Comparative, Nanterre, CNRS)
Control over Time and the Creation of a Transcendental Level in Shamanic Rituals (Nepal)

Stéphane Gros Milieux (Sociétés et Cultures en Himalaya, CNRS)
Facial tattooing among Drung women and the transition to womanhood
Listen to the podcast here.

Katherine Swancutt (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)
Through the lens of dreams: a technique for bridging the ontological divide between people and spirits

Friday 28 January

Chair: Elisabeth Hsu (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)
History in the body: a technique-critical approach to some Yijinjing Qigong practices

Gry Sagli (University of Oslo)
Perceptions and experiences of in contexts in Norway

Lim Chee-Han (National University of Singapore)
Unraveling the demon’s knot: Zhineng Qigong’s heart-mind methods for treating qigong deviation
Listen to the podcast here.

Adam D. Frank (Honors College, University of Central Arkansas)
“Yong yi, bu yong li”: attaining gong fu among Wu style taijiquan practitioners in Shanghai 

The Body in Balance 2008

29-30 May 2008
Osler McGovern Centre, 13 Norham Gardens, Oxford
Funded by the John Fell OUP Research Fund and All Souls College

Thursday 29 May
Chair: Peregrine Horden (Royal Holloway, University of London and All Souls College, Oxford)

Helen King (Department of Classics, University of Reading)
Female Fluids in the Hippocratic Corpus: How Solid was the Humoral Body?

Barbara Duden (Institut für Soziologie un Sozialpsychologie, Leibniz Universität Hannover) 
Fluxes and Stagnations – a Physician’s Perception and Treatment of Humors in Baroque Ladies.

Peter Murray Jones (King’s College, Cambridge)
Between ‘Complexio’ and ‘Experimentum’: Tensions in Late Medieval Medical Practice.

Emilie Savage-Smith (Faculty of Oriental Studies, University of Oxford)
Were the Four Humours Really Fundamental to Medieval Islamic Medical Practice?

Friday 30 May 
Chair: Patrizia Bassini (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)

Guy Attewell (Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine, University College London)
On Equilibrium and Disjuncture: Rethinking the Humours in 20th Century Unani Theory and Practice.

Francis Zimmermann (Anthropologie, Ecole des Hautes Etudes en Sciences Sociales, Paris)Aiming for Congruence: the Golden Rule of Ayurvedic Practice.

Shigehisa Kuriyama (Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations, Harvard University)
On the Obscurity of Humours in East Asian Medicine.

Elisabeth Hsu (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)
Medicine of Moderation, or: the Medicalisation of Emotion in Han China.

Ellen Messer (Department of Anthropology, Tufts University) 
Hot-Cold Classifications and Balancing Actions in Mesoamerican Diet, Health, and Healing: Theory and Ethnography of Practice in Late 20th Century Mexico.

David Parkin (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology and All Souls College, University of Oxford) 
Purity and Sickness: African Concepts of Transgression and Restoration.

Embodiment, Ritual, and the Sacred Landscape in Tibetan Healing

17-18 May 2007
Osler McGovern Centre, 13 Norham Gardens, Oxford
Funded by the John Fell OUP Research Fund

Thursday 17 May
Chair: Elisabeth Hsu (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford)

Mona Schrempf (Humboldt University Berlin, Germany)
Between Mantra and Syringe: Clinical Practice and Patient Behavior in Amdo.

Geoffrey Samuel (Cardiff University)
Healing and the Environment in Tibet: Some General Considerations.

Ben Campbell (University of Durham)
Hot Springs, Chill Mornings.

Patrizia Bassini (University of Oxford)
The Body Landscape: the Amdo Tibetan Popular Experience of Health and Illness.

Friday 18 May
Chair: David Gellner (Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford) 

Colin Millard (Tara Institute of Tibetan Medicine)
The Therapeutic Role of Illness Narratives in two Tibetan Medical Contexts.

Florian Besch (University of Heidelberg, Germany)
Healing Rituals in Spiti. How Secularised is Tibetan Medicine?

Ulrike Roesler (University of Oxford)
The Own Body, the Other Body, and Bodies Without Owners

Charles Ramble (University of Oxford)