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Tibetan medicine on the margins: twentieth century transformations of the traditions of Sowa Rigpa in central Tibet

Hofer, T.; (2011) Tibetan medicine on the margins: twentieth century transformations of the traditions of Sowa Rigpa in central Tibet. Doctoral thesis, UCL (University College London).

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Abstract

This thesis is an ethnography and situated history of Tibetan medical practitioners in Tsang and Shigatse Prefecture, Central Tibet. It analyses how as individuals and groups, Tibetan medical doctors – the so-called amchi – have adapted and transformed their medical practices and multiple traditions of the Tibetan Science of Healing, or Sowa Rigpa. The principal argument is that amchi in the area studied have, at times and in certain places, held considerable agency in processes of transforming their traditions. This is despite and because of the ongoing Communist reforms, campaigns and structural changes enacted within the wider domains of health care provision and Tibetan medicine. Based on my research, I am able to articulate more clearly the role of individual amchi, their patients and other individuals and social groups, in shaping and adapting aspects of Tibetan medical practice. A central claim is that amchi participated and creatively used (and, in some cases, resisted and circumvented) the structures and policies employed by the state to administer provision of health care and reconfigure parts of Tibetan medical theory and practice. So far our understanding of Tibetan medicine during the 20th century has been largely limited to the history and contemporary work of central (Lhasa-based) government institutions of Tibetan medicine, notably the Mentsikhang and the Chakpori, and the practitioners associated with them. The fresh insights gained from my work with more marginal amchi – in private clinics, at home, in government hospitals and clinics, at monasteries – and also with members of international NGOs, allow us to discern more clearly what I call temporalities and socio-political geographies of amchi agency, which play a significant role in passing on and shaping dynamic Tibetan medical traditions. As the practices of the study population reflect, it is due to the efforts of those who were able to negotiate and preserve their medical work, as well as continue to innovate and adapt it, that multiple Tibetan medical traditions continue to exist in Tibet today.

Type:Thesis (Doctoral)
Title:Tibetan medicine on the margins: twentieth century transformations of the traditions of Sowa Rigpa in central Tibet
Language:English
Additional information:Permission for digitisation not received
UCL classification:UCL > School of Life and Medical Sciences > Faculty of Life Sciences > Biosciences (Division of) > UCL Centre for the History of Medicine

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