Accepted paper:

Medical Authority, Western and Tribal, Changing US-India Interactions, and Development


Edward Sankowski (University of Oklahoma)
Betty Harris (University of Oklahoma)

Paper short abstract:

Intercultural comparison and connections are possible of Western-style medical authority with other systems (including tribal cultures in Kerala, India represented at the Muddha Mooppan Centre in Kerala). Medical globalization, e.g., tourism involving the US and Kerala generates changes in the ascription of medical authority in both cultural contexts (US and India, e.g., Kerala).

Paper long abstract:

A culture includes a conception of medical authority important for cultural identity. The Muddha Mooppan Centre in Kerala will continue to change the concept of medical authority. Medical authority in the United States is ascribed not only to social roles such as "Western" (e.g., US authorized) medical doctors, but also to associated healthcare roles. Contrary to an idea prevalent among many persons in the West (that medical authority is justified mainly by formal education that is centered on certified scientific and technological expertise) medical authority currently has (and has always had) important aspects that are not entirely scientific in the usual specifically Western sense, but broadly "bio-political-cultural-psychological". Comparisons and intercultural connections are possible of some features of US medical authority with systems in India (including more specifically local tribal systems in Kerala). "Western" style medical authority, when shared with the authority of tribal healers in India, can generate questions about a changing system of medical authority. These changes are a feature of globalization. Medical tourism between the US and India is likely to change medical authority in the US. These changes include but go beyond transnational migration of doctors and other medical personnel such as the well-known Kerala nurses; patient tourism and institutional recognition of cross-border medical authority will need to be addressed. We anticipate that changes will occur in the conception of medical authority that are the outcome of globalization, including contacts between the US and Kerala medical systems.

panel SE23
Action anthropology, tribal medicine and development