Cultural Concepts and Local Practices of Efficacy and Safety: Recontextualizations in Production, Circulation and Prescription of Asian Pharmaceuticals

9-13 September 2013, Sancheong, South Korea

Panel held during the 8th edition of the International Congress of Traditional Asian Medicine (ICTAM 8)



Asian pharmaceuticals involve a range of experiences and strategies that are challenging established ideas of efficacy and safety in health care. This panel brings together researchers from different disciplinary backgrounds who analyse the various recontextualization practices of Asian pharmaceuticals in production, circulation and prescription and their linkages. The question of 'what works' and 'how' has been dominated by hegemonic biomedical frameworks and regulations of efficacy and safety that are closely related to science, rationality, power and authority. We are interested instead in how efficacy and safety are produced and reproduced in these different contexts from both historical and ethnographic points of views – and propose to investigate the internal logics of how certain actors understand and explain how a medicine works safely.

It is our aim to reconstruct cases and therefore trace the processes how Asian pharmaceuticals are produced and prescribed locally while ideas and substances circulate transregionally. We will thus analyse the multivocality and multivalence of efficacy and safety in each assemblage of knowledge and practice, i.e. to understand local medical and pharmaceutical ways of knowledge and styles of practices, how and why they are changing, including the analysis of wider regulatory frameworks and how they impact on local historical, socio-political and medical recontextualisations of Asian pharmaceuticals.

The panel focuses on Chinese, Indian and Tibetan medicine(s) but welcomes contributions by ethnographers and historians who examine cases in South, East, South East, and Central Asia. Methodologies from science and technology studies clarify multi-layered discourses of evidence and control of quality and safety that deserve fieldwork and archival research in a comparative framework.


Participants and talks

  • The Establishment of the System of Traditional Chinese Medicine Regarding Licensing and Medical Affairs Under Japanese Rule (1895-1945 A.D.) in Taiwan
    Pei-chi, Becky Chou, China Medical University, Taipei
  • Articulating the Safety of Purified Mercury-Sulfide Ash (tsotel) in Contemporary Tibetan Medicine
    Barbara Gerke, Humboldt University Berlin
  • The Effectiveness and Safety of Traditional Tibetan Medicine in the Treatment of Challenging Diseases
    Amchi Jamyang Drolma, Men-Tsee-Khang, Dharamsala
  • Embattled Constructions: Problematising Hegemonic Biomedical Constructions of Safety in the Integrative Medicine Discourse
    Paul Kadetz, University College London
  • Drug Safety Between Trust and Control: Observations on the Relationship between Tibetan Medicine and GMP
    Stephan Kloos, Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna
  • Assembling Diasporic Science or Making Herbs a Global Business: CGCM and the Regulatory Globalization of Chinese Medicine
    Wen-Hua Kuo, National Yang-Ming University, Taipei
  • Ethnopharmacology, Ethnoquality and Ethnobotany Aspects of the Bhutanese Form of Gso-ba-rig-pa Medicine: Concepts and Current Practices
    Phurpa Wangchuk, University of Wolongong
  • 'Trialling' Traditional Chinese Medicine in Australia
    Rey Tiquia, TCM practitioner, Honorary Fellow, School of Historical and Philosophical Studies at University of Melbourne
  • Tibetan Formulas as Network Medicines – A Modern Scientific Approach to Multi-compound Formulas
    Herbert Schwabl, Padma AG, Geneva
  • Recontextualising Tibetan Medicines in Europe
    Mona Schrempf, University of Westminster, London
  • Medicinal Delicatessen: Global Circulation of Chinese Substances, and Prescribers in Sichuan Province, China                                                                       Lena Springer, University of Westminster
  • Tibetan Medicine(s) in Europe: Tracing the Transformations of Plants and Meanings from Their Places of Origin to the Patient-Healer Interface
    Jan van der Valk, University of Kent

Download the programme



Mona Schrempf and Lena Springer (EASTmedicine Research Center, University of Westminster, London)



Sancheong, Gyeongsangnamdo, South Korea