Medical Anthropology of “TEAM”

As an ancient medicine new to the ‘West,’ the cultural conception of Traditional East Asian Medicine remains to be delineated. As clinicians, researchers, and patients, we are all actively defining the experience and medicine of TEAM. We constantly create dialogue about what actually constitutes our medicine by debating techniques, influencing policies, and recording translations as well as creating new syntheses of treatment styles. Medical anthropology not only helps us investigate what we are as a medicine, but also how to define our terms and how to debate our premises in a way that moves us forward.

To illustrate one simple concept of semantics: What do we call our medicine?

  • Whole Systems-Traditional Chinese Medicine (WS-TCM)
  • Traditional East Asian Medicine (TEAM)
  • Oriental Medicine (OM)
  • Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine (AOM)
  • Classical Chinese Medicine (CCM)
  • Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM)
  • Medical Acupuncture
  • Chinese Acupuncture and Moxibustion
  • AcuMoxa Therapy
  • Five-Element Acupuncture
  • Japanese Acupuncture
  • Meridian Therapy

You see where the problem lies. We need major clarification. The World Health Organization is also trying to untangle this mess by 2015, at least for the ICD-11 coding purposes. The WHO’s International Classification of Traditional Medicine (ICTM) project is a massive endeavor with a great vision statement, and we await the results of this project. It remains to be seen how we all work together on this problem of defining our most basic terms. From there we can begin to speak a common language of diagnosis and treatment patterns and techniques, while maintaining the art of individualized application of treatment modalities.

Quoting from Volker Scheid’s EASTmedicine project at the University of Westminster, UK:

“The basis of all EASTmedicine’s projects is an in-depth understanding of the epidemiological, cultural, and social influences that have shaped the development of medical practice over time. We also draw on a variety of perspectives from across the natural and social sciences to critically examine the issues involved in integrating East Asian medical traditions into modern western health care systems. This implies safeguarding and maintaining what is valuable about East Asian medical traditions as well as developing them further to meet the challenges of the future.”

I am only starting to read the works of our anthropological pioneers, so this listing will be brief to begin with, but as with everything else on this website will expand over time.

Pioneers in this field, more to be added:

Paul Unschuld: Founding Director of the Horst-Goertz-Institute for the Theory, History, and Ethics of Chinese Life Sciences at Charité-Universitaetsmedizin Berlin

Charlotte Paterson: Honorary Senior Research Fellow at the School of Social and Community Medicine, University of Bristol

Complete research outputs at the University of Bristol School of Social and Community Medicine

Volker Scheid: Director of EASTmedicine (East Asian Sciences and Traditions in Medicine) Research Centre in the School of Social Sciences at the University of Westminster

East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine: Open-Access Journal published by the International Society for the History of East Asian Science, Technology, and Medicine.

Chinese Medicine in Modern China: Plurality and Synthesis By Volker Scheid. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2002.

Charlotte FurthProfessor Emerita of History, USC Dana and David Dornsife College of Letters, Arts and Sciences

Gender, History, and Medicine in Feminist Scholarship: a Conversation with Charlotte Furth, by Jin Jiang

Published Articles and Book Chapters– available online.

Thinking with Cases: Specialist knowledge in pre-modern Chinese history

A FLOURISHING YIN; GENDER IN CHINA’S MEDICAL HISTORY–960-1665. University of California Press 1999.

Judith Brooke Farquhar: Faculty Associate, Conceptual and Historical Studies of Science, University of Chicago

Yi-Li Wu: independent scholar and a center associate at the Center for Chinese Studies, University of Michigan

Interview by The China Beat

Reproducing Women: Medicine, Metaphor, and Childbirth in Late Imperial China (UC Press, 2010)

Claire Cassidy

Linda Barnes: Associate Professor in the Department of Family Medicine at Boston University School of Medicine (BUSM), and in the Division of Religious and Theological Studies in the Graduate School of Arts and Sciences.

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