Taking Traditional Knowledge to the Market explores the paradox at the heart of the ayurvedic and unani medicine manufacturing industry-to present itself as both modern and traditional, and common and professional at the same time. On the one hand, the natural, wholesome and authentic nature of these medicines is juxtaposed with the ‘synthetic’, ‘violent’ and ‘iatrogenic’ character of western medicines, which dominate the Indian market. They are linked to Indian popular culture, the heyday of Indian civilisation and a humane approach to medicine. At the same time, large ayurvedic and unani manufacturers use modern science and technology to create a competitive edge and distance themselves from the image of backwardness, that also sticks to Indian medical traditions. Based on an ethnographic fieldwork, from 1996 to 2002, Maarten Bode studies five Indian ayurvedic and unani medicine firms-Hamdard, Zandu, Dabur, Himalaya and Arya Vaidya Sala. The narrative follows the perspective of these manufacturers and hence provides an insight into the categorisations and the characteristics of the consumer. Bode also reveals that researches conducted by large ayurvedic and unani manufacturers on their best-selling brands follow logic- positivistic and biomedical lines, often ignoring humoral concepts and classical pharmacological notions.
Maarten Bode is involved in a researc project, “The Politics of Value and the Commercialisation of Ayurveda Medicines, Prescribers, Dispensers an Patients, 1980-2010”, and is scheduled to start his work as a researcher at the Department of Medical Anthropology and Sociology, Faculty of Social Sciences. University of Amsterdam in May 2008.
Curiosity has fed this study. During my stay in Kathmandu for a year in 1981, I spent a few hours every day in the clinic of Kamdeo Jha, an ayurvedic physician who received his training at ayurvedic colleges in Patna and Banaras. In his practice at Hanuman Doka, I saw many patients. I was present at consultations and often packed Jha’s home-made ayurvedic medicines. This was my first hands-on experience with traditional South Asian medicine. However, when I tried to write an article aboutJha’s clinic for the Trouw, a Dutch daily in which I had published about the Tibetan refugees in Kathmandu, I failed. I did not know what to make of Jha’s humoral reasoning and his home-made formulas. As a trained clinical psychologist, it was not difficult for me to see that general healing factors such as attention and identifying discomfort were involved. For me such an approach was too general. It ignored the individual character of India’s medical traditions, the substance efficacy of its medicines and the symbolic efficacy of its practices and notions.
In 1987, I revisited Kamdeo Jha for a period of three months to do field research for my master’s thesis in medical anthropology. However, three months after my return I was diagnosed with a severe form of cancer. Although my illness was not fatal, it was not until 1992 that I could start writing my master’s thesis based on the fieldwork of 1987. Anthropology had given me the tools to do so and my supervisor, Klaas van der Veen, did not embarrass me by reminding me of the years that had passed since my fieldwork. We simply continued from where we had left off in 1987. I am grateful to him for that. After finishing my master’s thesis, Sjaak van der Geest and the Medical Anthropology Unit offered me hospitality and an intellectual milieu, which made it possible for me to pursue a Ph.D.
In 1988, Sjaak van der Geest and Susan Whyte published a volume of articles on the social (transactions) and cultural contexts (meanings) of medicines. By doing so a new sub-discipline was born, which they called pharmaceutical anthropology. The preface to the book was written by Charles Leslie who had laid the foundation for the study of Asian medical traditions as cultural systems in the 1970s. According to him, one could get a better grip on the modernisation of Indian medical traditions through a study of medicines and manufacturers. Charles Leslie generously shared his research notes and other research materials on the ayurvedic and unani industry withy me, which he had gathered in 1972 and 1983. Mter the encouragement from Sjaak van der Geest and Charles Leslie, I started my research in India in March 1996. I was back in Mumbai after eighteen years, but I now had a specific mission and valuable contacts.
I am grateful to Vinay Kamat, who was at that time working in Mumbai at the Tata Institute for Social Sciences, for helping me in material and immaterial ways when I started the fieldwork phase of my research in 1996. Things went smoothly and I had no trouble in gaining access to ayurvedic and unani manufacturers. I was able . to interview people working in these firms, which enabled me to understand the perspective of the manufacturers. Most of these interviews were conducted in confidentiality and the interviewees chose to remain anonymous. Although it is almost impossible to thank everyone who has helped, the following people deserve a mention for their generous support: Dr B. V Subbarayappa, Dr Ramkumar, Dr G. G.Gangadharan, Dr V Vasudevan, Dr T. N. Murali, Dr Indira Balachandran, Dr Padrna Venkat, Dr Urmila Thatte, Dr A. V Balasubramanian, Dr P R. Krishnakumar, Dr Ravi Prasad, Dr S.K. Mitra, Dr N. B. Brindavanam, Dr Durga Prasad, Dr R. U. Ahmed, Dr Amar Jesani, Dr Narendra Bhatt, Dr S. S. Mahajani, Prof Hakim Syed Zillur Rahman, Hakim Abdul Hameed, Mr Harnmad Ahmed, Mr Abdul Majeed, Dr S. A. Ali, Prof Hakim Jamil Ahmad, Dr S.B. Vohora, Hakim Altaf Azmi, Dr Shakeel Tarnanna, and Mr Arif Husain. I would like to thank Dr Krishnakant Parikh, the late director of Zandu Pharmaceuticals, separately because he immediately responded to any query I had. He also gave me permission to use the promotional materials of his firm in my work. This is also true of the other firms under the scope of this research, which generously gave me many materials to be used for ‘scientific purposes’.
I am especially thankful to Mr Darshan Shankar of the Foundation for the Revitalisation of Local Health Traditions (Bangalore) for his continuous friendship and support. Darshan also provided me with the title of this book. I also want to mention Dr Patricia Uberoi-then at the Institute of Economic Growth-who treated me as a colleague and friend when I stayed at Delhi University for around three months from October to December in 1997. Many people generously read and commented on my work, and helped me tremendously by doing so. First of all I want to mention Dr Waltraud Ernst who as the editor of a volume on orthodox and heterodox medical forms, Plural Medicine, Tradition and Modernity, 1800-2000, taught me how to write about Indian medicine in a professional manner. An earlier version of chapter 6 first appeared in this volume. Portions of chapters 2 and 3 were published in Anthropology & Medicine. I am grateful to the editors for giving me permission to publish these sections in their present form. I also benefited greatly from the comments on earlier versions of my chapters by Klaas van der Veen, Darshan Shankar, Dick Plukker, Gunnar Stollberg, Douwe Tiemersma, Jan Meulenbeld, Friso Smit, Dr N. B. Brindavanam, Adri Rienks and P. V. Unnikrishnan. Without them, this project would have remained incomplete. I am certain I have not mentioned many whose support deserves to be acknowledged. I apologise for this. Although the final text is my responsibility, I take this opportunity to thank the editors and the anonymous reviewer of New Perspectives in South Asian History series for selecting my work. Sanjoy Bhattacharya has been very supportive and has always responded to my queries personally. I am also indebted to the editorial and production teams at Orient Longman. I also want to thank Nederlands Wetenschappelijk Onderzoek (Dutch Scientific Research) for giving me a language editing grant and the International Institute for Asian Studies (University of Leiden, University of Amsterdam) for providing me with office space and facilities while I was reworking my Ph.D. thesis into a publication. Finally, I dedicate this book to my daughter, Suzanne Irene Bode, with all my love.
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