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Distinctions and Differentiations between Medicine and Religion

In: Asian Medicine
Authors:
Katrin Killinger Universität Göttingen Göttingen Germany

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Christoph Kleine Universität Leipzig Leipzig Germany

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Katja Triplett Universität Leipzig Leipzig Germany

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Abstract

This special section of Asian Medicine brings together three scholars of the history of healing practices and medicine in premodern Asian societies to explore whether and how emic boundaries between religion and medicine were drawn in different historical contexts. In this introduction, we use the example of ancient Japan in an attempt to show how first steps towards a separation of religion and medicine can be identified, even when they have not yet been clearly differentiated institutionally or distinguished conceptually as distinct fields of action. By doing so, we operationalize the macro-sociological question central to the ‘multiple secularities’ approach, namely how ‘secular’ fields of action—here, curing disease—emancipate themselves from ‘religion’ in premodern ‘non-Western’ societies. We propose to look for differences in the framing and interpretation of healing activities, for the ascription of either (professional) competence or (religious) charisma to the healers, to ask whether the activities are to be interpreted as a social function or service, and to identify the sources of authority and legitimacy. This is followed by a brief summary and discussion of the contributions by Selby, Czaja, and Triplett.

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