Paper $45.00 ISBN: 9780226383132 Published October 2016
Cloth $135.00 ISBN: 9780226381794 Published October 2016
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Doctoring Traditions

Ayurveda, Small Technologies, and Braided Sciences

Projit Bihari Mukharji

Doctoring Traditions

Projit Bihari Mukharji

376 pages | 7 halftones, 9 line drawings | 6 x 9 | © 2016
Paper $45.00 ISBN: 9780226383132 Published October 2016
Cloth $135.00 ISBN: 9780226381794 Published October 2016
E-book $45.00 About E-books ISBN: 9780226381824 Published October 2016
Like many of the traditional medicines of South Asia, Ayurvedic practice transformed dramatically in the later nineteenth and early twentieth centuries. With Doctoring Tradition, Projit Bihari Mukharji offers a close look at that recasting, upending the widely held yet little-examined belief that it was the result of the introduction of Western anatomical knowledge and cadaveric dissection.
 
Rather, Mukharji reveals, what instigated those changes were a number of small technologies that were introduced in the period by Ayurvedic physicians, men who were simultaneously Victorian gentlemen and members of a particular Bengali caste. The introduction of these devices, including thermometers, watches, and microscopes, Mukharji shows, ultimately led to a dramatic reimagining of the body. By the 1930s, there emerged a new Ayurvedic body that was marked as distinct from a biomedical body. Despite the protestations of difference, this new Ayurvedic body was largely compatible with it. The more irreconcilable elements of the old Ayurvedic body were then rendered therapeutically indefensible and impossible to imagine in practice. The new Ayurvedic medicine was the product not of an embrace of Western approaches, but of a creative attempt to develop a viable alternative to the Western tradition by braiding together elements drawn from internally diverse traditions of the West and the East.
Review Quotes
South Asian History and Culture
"Doctoring Traditions is a remarkably original contribution to the scholarly literature on Ayurveda....Mukharji’s book breaks new ground in examining the historical emergence of Ayurveda’s technomodernity, and the ideational content, material technologies and body-images that took shape at its beginnings."
David Arnold, University of Warwick
“In a work of singular insight and originality, Mukharji uncovers the complex braiding of Western medical science and the Indian Ayurvedic tradition in late nineteenth- and early twentieth-century Bengal, and reflects on the way in which small objects—from watches and thermometers to microscopes and medicine bottles—transformed bodily understanding and therapeutic practice. Doctoring Traditions is a seminal account of what doctors do as well as what they imagine, and in its assiduous research, bold methodology, and wide intellectual engagement it will resonate with studies of science, medicine, and technology well beyond the confines of colonial Bengal.”
Joseph Alter, University of Pittsburgh
Doctoring Traditions is an excellent addition to a growing body of literature that critically problematizes the cultural history of medicine and science in modern India. Mukharji’s incisive, perceptive, and thoughtful analysis examines the way in which we think about modern Ayurveda. By focusing on the quotidian material culture of medicine as a medium through which to understand how disparate streams of knowledge about health are braided together, he takes us deep into the fabric of embodied reasoning in the context of colonialism’s modernity. A beautifully crafted book, Doctoring Traditions is flawless in its consistency, logical integrity, and wonderfully structured, coherent arguments.”
Marta Hanson, Johns Hopkins University
"Synthesizing Chinese as well as European and South Asian medical history, Mukharji persuasively demonstrates how bodily understanding and therapeutic practice dramatically transformed between 1870 and 1930 in Bengal through five cases studies of specific technologies: the pocket watch, organotherapy, the thermometer, the microscope, and the body-as-technology of the physicians themselves. Even simple medicine bottles play a significant role in this eloquent narrative on how Ayurveda became modern.”
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