Sociology of a Regional Medicine

Inheritance Capital, Social Networks, and Institutional Strategies in the Making of Contemporary Ayurveda in Kerala

in Asian Medicine
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Abstract

The trajectories of the twentieth-century modernization of Ayurveda varied in different parts of India. This article, which is based on interviews with Ayurvedic practitioners from several social backgrounds and training modalities, analyzes the social dimensions of Ayurveda’s transformation in twentieth-century Kerala, South India. It argues that in the twentieth century Ayurvedic practitioners from two caste groups, Ezhavas and Brahmans, who belonged to established medical lineages were active in the institutionalization of a distinctive therapeutic tradition in the region that is now known as Kerala. Both groups devised new pedagogic, clinical, and manufacturing strategies to protect their family- and caste-based medical lineages and made good use of the new avenues offered by the modern state, modernized Ayurvedic education, and the market to reproduce, adapt, and consolidate their position in Ayurveda in the region. The concept of “inheritance capital” is used to explore the consolidation and reproduction of regional medical lineages and the associated social advantages over successive generations.

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