Accepted Paper:

Governing self help? A socio-legal study on the EU Directives on herbal medicinal products and the implications for and effects on the natural health community  


Gerald Schaefer (Aberystwyth University)
Claudine Young (Aberystwyth University)

Paper short abstract:

This paper includes an interpretation of the Directives within the context of EU law, and looks at the effects upon the ‘natural medicine community’, how people are responding to them, through compliance or transgression, and issues of governance and the body.

Paper long abstract:

This paper is co-authored by an EU lawyer and an anthropologist. Firstly, it examines the EU Directives on Herbal Medicinal Products within the wider context of EU law, including the regulatory intention, legal techniques and scope of the legislation. Secondly, using ethnographic data, the paper explores the implications for and effects on the natural health community, and how people are responding to the directives, through compliance or transgression. Here, we take 'natural health community' to mean those who produce, sell and use herbal medicinal products; at this stage, the scope of the study is confined to Great Britain. The 'natural health community' in Great Britain, however, is not homogenous because the regulations also apply to Traditional Chinese Medicine and Ayurvedic Medicine in addition to European Herbal Remedies, which raises ethical and philosophical issues relating to liberty and rights to cultural beliefs and practices, and also questions as to how different parts of the community have been informed and updated on the changes in law. Drawing theoretically from Foucault to Irigaray, this paper finally highlights how these Directives reflect paternalistic approaches to our relationship with the 'natural' world and socio-cultural 'knowledges' which exist outside of hegemonic discourses. Additionally, questions are raised as to why at the same time that there is a predominance of softer paternalistic approaches actively encouraging self-help, other forms of making healthy choices are being intensely governed.

Panel P22
Knowing plants