Statement from the New Editor

in Asian Medicine

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Asian Medicine: Journal of the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine is the new name of Asian Medicine: Tradition and Modernity, a multidisciplinary journal that has been produced by iastam and published by Brill since 2005. The change in our subtitle does not indicate a shift in our subject matter. The journal continues to be aimed at an international audience of both researchers and practitioners of Asian medicines in historical and contemporary global contexts, and to be especially interested in publishing work that stimulates interactions between the realms of academic research and clinical practice. It will continue featuring academic essays on the historical, anthropological, sociological, and philological dimensions of Asian medicines, as well as ethnographic materials, reports, and resources from clinicians that may be of interest to the scholarly community.

Nor does the name change represent a reconfiguration of our institutional affiliation. Since its inception, Asian Medicine has served as the flagship journal for iastam, and we hope that the new name will make more explicit the close relationship between the journal and the association. We also hope it allows us to move away from the “tradition” and “modernity” dichotomy that our field has generally found to be restrictive and problematic. Since its formation in 2005, Asian Medicine has been the only academic journal that focuses on the entire range of humanistic and social scientific study of traditional Asian medicines. Publications on various aspects of Asian medicines regularly appear in other journals associated with history, cultural anthropology, philosophy, area studies, history of science, and other disciplines. However, Asian Medicine has been and continues to be the principal scholarly outlet fostering interdisciplinary conversations in our field. We hope that our new subtitle will convey our broad focus, and iastam’s mission fostering excellent research and publications, to a wider audience.

Indeed, we feel that today the journal is more relevant for more people than ever before. Over the dozen years since its inception, several factors have combined to push the study of Asian medicines into a more central place within public and scholarly discourses. The first of these factors is a palpable increase in the popularity and legitimacy of various forms of Asian medicine in their cultures of origin. Continuing trends that originated in the twentieth century, Asian medical ideas, practices, and institutions are now available in a variety of “traditional,” “modern,” and hybrid forms that represent important ingredients in the contemporary medical marketplaces of virtually every Asian society. The past decade in particular has seen a tremendous surge of popular interest, government regulation, and integration into national healthcare policies. Our scholarly investigation of Asian medicines consequently draws ever-increasing attention from policy-makers and development experts, who recognize that this topic is highly relevant to the shape of the healthcare sector in Asia, now and in the future.

Secondly, and relatedly, the globalization of Asian medicine has accelerated greatly, making our scholarship increasingly relevant well beyond Asia. Whereas even in the 1980s Asian medicines were limited to immigrant communities and the counter-cultural fringe in most of the West, today certain practices have become mainstream features of modern life across much of the world. In countless commoditized forms, therapies associated with Chinese medicine, Ayurveda, yoga, Buddhism, and other traditions now collectively comprise a multi-billion-dollar industry. Acupuncture, qigong, postural yoga, and mindfulness have all recently played significant roles in international diplomacy, identity politics, and national healthcare policy debates in Western countries. Moreover, Asian medicines are now also transforming biomedical research being done globally. These days, certain modalities are routinely studied in clinical trials at the most reputable medical research institutions. They have been integrated into the most state-of-the-art hospitals, and some are now even subsidized by national and private insurance systems across the world. As a result, some aspects of Asian medicines have become increasingly accepted as legitimate and efficacious options in the healthcare landscape. (The ubiquitous presence of mindfulness at the 2014 World Economic Forum in Davos and the awarding in 2015 of a Nobel Prize in medicine to Tu Youyou for her research on artemisia are two high-profile exemplars of the wider phenomenon.)

Thirdly and finally, in the past decade the study of Asian medicines has been injected with great energy and methodological diversity as a wide range of new conversation partners have entered the field. Recently, scholars have brought power, gender, and postcolonial studies into the study of Asian medicines in order to explore how healthcare has been a perennial site of social contestation. They have applied fine-grained approaches, emphasizing microhistorical and ethnographic descriptions of locally-situated medical practice. They have explored the transnational and crosscultural connectivity of places, objects, and social networks, across history and today. They have analyzed the interconnectivities of textual scholarship and clinical practice, and examined the epistemological tensions between received canons and living traditions. They have fostered an appreciation for the contingent historical processes behind the development of Asian medicines, highlighting the innovation, dynamism, and creativity of its practitioners in virtually all times and places.

Much of this interdisciplinary conversation has taken place within the pages of this very journal. Over the past dozen years, Asian Medicine’s authors have situated our publication within the leading currents in the contemporary academy, while simultaneously carving out an identity for the study of Asian medicines as an area of particular intellectual vigor. Many of our authors now self-identify as scholars or scholar-practitioners of Asian medicines first, and then secondly as historians, anthropologists, acupuncturists, and so forth. Judging from the membership figures of iastam, the attendance at the most recent International Congress of Traditional Asian Medicine (ictam) organized by the association in Germany in summer of 2017, and the loosely-affiliated Facebook group “Academic Study of Asian Medicine” (est. 2012), there now appear to be perhaps 300 international English-speaking scholars and scholar-practitioners who consider themselves to be participants in this field. (This number does not include a large contingent of policy makers, practitioners, and non-Anglophone academics who periodically interact with us, but do not regularly appear in the venues just mentioned.)

The point is that, in 2017, the study of traditional Asian medicines is a dynamic field that promises to be relevant and exciting well into the foreseeable future. Equally importantly, Asian Medicine is well-positioned to continue to be at the center of these developments as we go forward. Under previous president Geoffrey Samuel, the leadership of iastam recently renewed our commitment to continue publishing with Brill. As part of these negotiations, we have been able to secure free online access to the journal for all current members of iastam (see details about our very affordable membership rates at www.iastam.org). Brill also has agreed to make Asian Medicine’s articles freely accessible through their website (www.brill.com/asian-medicine) after a five-year embargo period. This means that, beginning with this 2017 volume, all issues dated before 2012 will now become publicly available. (Members and non-members alike can still purchase paper copies as desired through at Brill’s website above.)

These arrangements will ensure that the journal is accessible to a wider audience, which is cause for celebration. As our work is now more relevant than ever, we feel that it is essential to make it more visible to practitioners, students, policy-makers, independent researchers, and other types of readers who may not habitually follow academic journals. Articles now may also be more easily accessed by readers in developing countries—including many of the Asian countries under consideration within the pages of the journal—where economic factors have all too often placed Western academic publishing out of reach. With wider circulation and readership, we hope that Asian Medicine will allow the diverse voices in our field to contribute to even larger conversations, encouraging cross-pollination between the study of Asian medicines and a spectrum of other academic and non-academic fields. Improving the visibility of intercultural humanistic and social science research is also politically imperative, as it argues for the relevance of our research in the current environment of increasing budget cuts, nativist retrenchment, and rampant anti-intellectualism that is currently sweeping North America and parts of Europe.

Related to the journal’s widening audience is our ongoing commitment to widening the base of our contributors. Since its founding, Asian Medicine has had a longstanding tradition of providing mentorship for early career scholars, scholar-practitioners, and authors who speak English as a second language, with the express purpose of including and amplifying these often-overlooked voices within our pages. While such practices have in the past sometimes led to delays in our publication schedule, the entire line of previous editors—from our founder, Vivienne Lo, to the most recent co-editors, Marta Hanson and Mona Schrempf—are to be commended for refusing to compromise on their commitment to personally mentoring authors through the process of producing high-quality scholarship. This dedication to equity has often meant an enormous expenditure of time and effort on their part, through which the field has been much enriched and for which we are all much indebted.

As the new Editor-in-Chief of this journal, I intend to continue to preserve and promote the journal’s inclusive stance. With an eye toward better facilitating the personal mentorship of authors, I have restructured our editorial team to reflect a more decentralized and sustainable approach. From the 2017 volume onwards, Associate Editors (ae) will now be taking a much more active role in individually advising authors, and will personally oversee manuscripts as they move through the workflow. Unlike some journals where the position of ae is a formality, our editors are frequently tapped to read, review, edit, communicate, and guide. They—along with our new Senior Editor Yi-Li Wu and our new Assistant Editor William McGrath—represent the true editorial leadership of this publication. I am very grateful to each and every one of them for their willingness to serve in this capacity, and for their energetic involvement in what are too often thankless and invisible tasks that are nonetheless truly essential for our journal and for our field. I likewise wish to thank the Book Review Editors, led by Senior bre Daniel Trambaiolo, for their work in keeping our readers abreast of the latest developments with our colleagues’ publications. Finally, I also owe a special debt of gratitude to Marta Hanson, Geoffrey Samuel, Yi-Li Wu, Sienna Craig, and Mona Schrempf for their advice, support, and hard work on behalf of the journal during the transition to the new editorial team.

Despite the changes in the way the editorial board handles manuscripts, there is much that remains unchanged through this transition. We intend to continue the journal’s tradition of publishing a variety of peer-reviewed articles, as well as practice reports, research notes, translations, and other resources. Now that the journal is caught up to date and back on schedule, we will continue to publish two issues annually, either separate or combined together in a double issue such as this one. We will continue to have frequent guest editors produce special themed issues, or special sections on particular topics. In the near future we also will be adding new features, including a “Forum” section to better facilitate communication and discussion within our pages, as well as digital and multimedia content to accompany and supplement traditional print articles. In addition to debuting new features, I also would like to draw attention to the expansion of the editorial board’s area of coverage. With new members of the team bringing expertise in Asian psychiatry, religious healing, modern postural yoga, and Central Asian traditions, we hope to continue to explore, expand, and redefine the boundaries of what has been studied under the rubric of “Asian medicines” in the years to come.

The contents of this double-issue, Volume 12, include an omnibus section containing a number of articles that I inherited from the previous editors. While all of our publications are important pieces of scholarship, I would especially draw your attention to the contribution by Di Lu, which received the 2016 Charles Leslie Junior Scholar Essay Award for the “best original, unpublished scholarly essay” on Asian medicines, as judged by the iastam Council. The current volume also contains a special section on Buddhism and Healing that includes scholarly articles, translations, and book reviews that explore newly discovered connections between religion and medicine across a wide range of time and geography. This section was overseen by myself and Assistant Editor William McGrath—although as is now our usual practice, all of these articles were individually edited by the journal’s Associate Editors. In particular, I wish to thank Leon Rocha, Mona Schrempf, Sienna Craig, Anthony Cerulli, Marta Hanson, Clark Chilson, Daniel Trambaiolo, Laurence Monnais, and Sonya Pritzker for their hard work on the articles in this issue.

On behalf of the Asian Medicine editorial board, I would like to invite you to read, contribute, comment, and participate in the editorial activities of Asian Medicine as we move forward into the future. We hope you will continue to see this as your journal, and a reflection of the collaborative efforts of our field. Also, we hope that you will support the new journal initiative by actively maintaining your membership in iastam, which is the chief source of funding for Asian Medicine. We thank you for your readership and your support!

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Statement from the New Editor

in Asian Medicine

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