Co-Producing Efficacious Medicines

Collaborative Event Ethnography with Himalayan and Tibetan Sowa Rigpa Practitioners
Faculty Scholarship
Thursday, April 16, 2015
Department of Anthropology, Dartmouth College

Current Anthropology 56(2): 178-204

Author(s): Calum Blaikie, Sienna Craig, Barbara Gerke, and Theresia Hofer

This article emerges from a workshop titled  “Producing Efficacious Medicine: Quality, Potency, Lineage, and Critically Endangered Knowledge,” held in Kathmandu, Nepal, in December 2011. An experiment in collaborative event ethnography (CEE), this workshop brought together Tibetan medicine practitioners (amchi) from India, Nepal, and Tibetan regions of the People’s Republic of China, with anthropologists who have been working with amchi for decades. This workshop focused on practitioners who still compound and prescribe their own medicines, in an era when such practitioners are declining in number due to rapid commoditization of Tibetan medicines, shifts toward standardized mass production, institution-based education, and the implementation of pharmaceutical governance regimes derived from biomedicine. The workshop aimed to encourage knowledge exchange between diverse practitioners and generate new, collective, and more nuanced anthropological knowledge about Sowa Rigpa epistemology, history, theory, and practice. Our method of choice was collaborative event ethnography formulated as a workshop in the most literal sense of the word: a space where artisanal forms of praxis were honored and where material things—medicines—were collectively made. This article discusses how this CEE experience departs at the level of scope, structure, and implications from other collaborative, event-based ethnographic practice described in the anthropological literature.

Rockefeller Center Faculty Grant Proposal: "Genes and the Fertility of Tibetan Women at High Altitude in Nepal: Biocultural Perspectives on Reproduction and Social Change."