Accepted Paper:

Medical pluralism in post-Soviet Kazakhstan: relations between biomedicine and complementary medicines in the context of political and socio-economic transition  


Danuta Penkala-Gawęcka (Adam Mickiewicz University in Poznań)

Paper short abstract:

This paper examines medical pluralism in Post-Soviet Kazakhstan, with the focus on its dynamic political and socio-economic context, the process of professionalisation of complementary practitioners and the attempts at integration of some branches of complementary medicine with biomedicine.

Paper long abstract:

The focus of my paper is on the complex field of medical pluralism in post-Soviet Kazakhstan, examined as the arena of encounters, competition and cooperation between biomedicine and complementary medicines of diverse origins. I will stress the dynamics of these processes connected with radical political changes and economic difficulties during the period of transition and the following relative stabilisation. After the first period of strong ideological - nationalistic bias, which resulted in predominant official support for the Kazakh folk medicine, more weight was given to such "great medical traditions" as Chinese or Korean medicines, to homeopathy, manual therapies and other branches of the so-called "traditional medicine". I will explore official strategies of legalisation and professionalisation of complementary practitioners and their responses to such efforts, as well as modest effects of the attempts at integration, especially in medical education. The analysis is based on my many years' fieldwork in Kazakhstan and my main aim is to stress the importance of careful examination of manifold factors that influence the relations between biomedicine and other medicines in a given socio-cultural context, and the need to take into account perspectives of multiple social actors involved.

Panel W014
From medical pluralism to therapeutic plurality: medical anthropology and the politics of diversity, knowledge, and experience from multiple perspectives