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First delivered as a plenary lecture at the ictam viii congress in September 2013 in South Korea, this paper discusses two interdisciplinary and collaborative workshops focusing on Tibetan medicine (also known as Sowa Rigpa) in contemporary contexts. The first event, which took place in December 2011, brought together nearly 40 practitioners of Sowa Rigpa from the greater Himalaya and Tibetan regions of the People’s Republic of China (prc), along with four anthropologists, for intensive, interactive discussions on pharmacology by making medicines together. The second event, which took place in October 2012 in Xining, Qinghai Province, prc, involved practitioners, educators, and researchers from the Arura Group, one of the leading Tibetan medicine institutions in the prc, with researchers from the United States, Europe, and tar (Tibet Autonomous Region) for in-depth discussions about integrative clinical research and the place of the humanities and social sciences in the study of traditional medicines. Both events were supported, directly or indirectly, by the International Association for the Study of Traditional Asian Medicine (iastam), and abided in spirit with the mission of this organisation, namely, to bring scholars and practitioners of Asian medicine together for mutual exchange. While the Kathmandu event emphasised hands-on learning and the co-production of both knowledge and things, the Xining workshop provided Tibetan medical colleagues in the prc with the opportunity to engage with broad discussions, at once methodological and epistemological, about the meaning, purpose, and aims of research on traditional medicines today.

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In: Asian Medicine

Abstract

This article takes as its starting point the outbreak of the SARS epidemic in 2002–2003 in the People's Republic of China (PRC) to ask pertinent questions about the politics of identity in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), and to connect these issues to the circulation of, as well as the social and economic value placed on, Tibetan medicines within China and abroad. We aim to connect the global pharmaceutical industry—including the ways it shapes science, disseminates knowledge, increases market demand, and influences clinical and social practice—to the production of Tibetan identities. We discuss dramatic increases in the production and sale of Tibetan medicinal products, specifically protective amulets, 'precious pills', and incense, during a particularly traumatic and widely publicised public health crisis in the PRC. These products clearly demand that we rethink the category 'medicine'. The popularity of these products during the SARS epidemic also points to the complicated positions of Tibetans and Tibetan cultural forms within contemporary China. What was it about these products that gave rise to the perception among Chinese and Tibetans alike they could 'save' or 'protect' people from contracting SARS. In more general terms, we ask if this exponential growth of the Tibetan medical industry in China—heightened during the SARS epidemic, but continuing apace since then—is allowing for cultural expression that highlights Tibetan uniqueness difference within otherwise contested social and political arenas. Or, is the global pharmaceutical industry in China in the process of encompassing and reformulating Tibetan medicine? Finally, we explore connections and distinctions between the rise in highly marketed Tibetan medicinals in China and their availability and appeal in the West.

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In: Asian Medicine
Brill's Tibetan Studies Library has established itself as one of the foremost academic book series in the fast-growing field of Tibetan Studies. Featuring both monographs and rigorously edited collected volumes, it covers all aspects of Tibetan culture well into modernity, doing justice to the full spectrum of humanities disciplines.
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Abstract

This article analyzes the audio diaries of a Tibetan physician, originally from Amdo (Qinghai Province, China), now living in New York City. Dr. Kunchog Tseten describes his experiences during the first wave of the COVID-19 pandemic, in spring and summer 2020, when Queens, New York—the location where he lives and works—was the “epicenter of the epicenter” of the novel coronavirus outbreak in the United States. The collaborative research project of which this diary is a part combines innovative methodological approaches to qualitative, ethnographic study during this era of social distancing with an attunement to the relationship between language, culture, and health care. Dr. Kunchog’s diary and our analysis of its contents illustrate the ways that Tibetan medicine and Tibetan cultural practices, including those emergent from Buddhism, have helped members of the Himalayan and Tibetan communities in New York City navigate this unprecedented moment with care and compassion.

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In: Asian Medicine