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Traditional Chinese medicine is often portrayed as an enduring system of therapeutic knowledge that has become globalized in recent decades In Other Worldly Mei Zhan argues that the discourses and practices called “traditional Chinese medicine” are made through rather than prior to translocal encounters and entanglements Zhan spent a decade following practitioners teachers and advocates of Chinese medicine through clinics hospitals schools and grassroots organizations in Shanghai and the San Francisco Bay Area Drawing on that ethnographic research she demonstrates that the everyday practice of Chinese medicine is about much than writing herbal prescriptions and inserting acupuncture needles “Traditional Chinese medicine” is also made and remade through efforts to create a preventive medicine for the “proletariat world” reinvent it for cosmopolitan middle class aspirations produce clinical “miracles” translate knowledge and authority and negotiate marketing strategies and medical ethics Whether discussing the presentation of Chinese medicine at a health fair sponsored by a Silicon Valley corporation or how the inclusion of a traditional Chinese medicine clinic authenticates the “California” appeal of an upscale residential neighborhood in Shanghai Zhan emphasizes that unexpected encounters and interactions are not anomalies in the structure of Chinese medicine Instead they are constitutive of its irreducibly complex and open ended worlds Zhan proposes an ethnography of “worlding” as an analytic for engaging and illuminating emergent cultural processes such as those she describes Rather than taking “cultural difference” as the starting point for anthropological inquiries this analytic reveals how various terms of difference—for example “traditional” “Chinese” and “medicine”—are invented negotiated and deployed translocally Other Worldly is a theoretically innovative and ethnographically rich account of the worlding of Chinese medicine


10 thoughts on “Other Worldly

  1. says:

    I really liked how 'worlding' is used in this ethnography Not only is it used through transnational frames but through the concept of translation it is a very useful for studying transdisciplinarity


  2. says:

    This is simply one of the best written anthropology books on Chinese medicine that I have read Her use of worlding creatively synthesizes Daoist philosophy and Heidegger's attempts to go beyond metaphysics as an analytic a way to ask questions and engage with anthropological fields rather than the traditional epistemology that treats peopleculture as the objects of study The worling as analytic is definitely a useful starting point for asking meaningful questions in religious studies my field Instead of treating religion religiosity science rationality logic etc as given categories using worlding as an analytic will allow us to view these terms as contingent or provisional outcomes of multidimensional dynamic and serendipitous even discrepant encounters


  3. says:

    Not for the casual reader