Accepted paper:

Engaging with the ''quack'': state, society and therapeutic reform in Kerala


Burton Cleetus (Jawaharlal Nehru University)

Paper short abstract:

Explores how knowledge forms and belief systems negotiates with the idea of therapeutic reform initiated by the State and social elites. It engages with encounters and adaptations of local healing traditions against the regimentation process of the modernising enterprise.

Paper long abstract:

The primary concern of those engaged with the process of therapeutic modernisation within the indigenous medical traditions in India were to figure out a 'rational' medical domain from the large number of localised healing techniques and practices. Kerala, a state in the south western part of the Indian sub-continent, offers unique experience of modernisation of its medical traditions, wherein a new realm for Ayurvedic medicine was attempted by formulating an institutionalised structure brought about by a collaboration between social elites within the indigenous medical domain and the State. Attempts to subject localised practitioners, and their practices, within new sets of standards were often met with resistance. The manner in which such healing forms, marginalised in the grand narrative of institutionalisation, survived in difference to the regulatory mechanisms of the state and the reformulation processes of the society is the focus of this paper. Such enquires help us to locate the layers of domination, resistance and adaptation that was integral to the character of medical encounters in India. This is therefore an attempt to engage with the manner in which localised healing traditions, and their practitioners, were subjected to the changes initiated by state and societies functioning within the logic of colonial modernity.

panel P44
Society, medicine and history: new perspectives