Summer Students Explore Non-Western Healing Practices


Professor Robin M. Wright (ONLINE)

This course is dedicated to the study of non-Western healers and medicine in relation to various religious traditions around the globe. The most important themes we shall discuss are:  the efficacy of religious symbols in the healing process; cross-cultural notions of the body, pain, and healing; embodiment of healing powers by religious specialists; ritual healing performances and their meanings; the importance of sound, sonic imagery, and music to healing processes; the relations of healing practices to cosmology, metaphysics, and sacred narratives; and, finally, the transformations of self and meaning that emerge during or from a cure.

The healing traditions we shall study, by ethnic groups or geographical regions, are the following: (1) indigenous peoples’ shamanisms and herbalisms in the Americas and urban mestizos of Latin America; (2) Asian, Eurasian, and Southeast Asian Buddhism, Hinduism, Taoism; (3) Islam; (4) charismatic Christianity and Pentecostalism; (5) Naturopathy and Nature Religions; and (6) Intellectual Property Rights and Traditional Knowledge. Among the questions we raise are: how does each tradition contrast, and what relations does each maintain with Western biomedical systems? Is the current national health system capable of incorporating, or at least collaborating with, non-Western forms of healing? Do the interests of the industrial and pharmaceutical complex present a barrier to this collaboration through control over the reproduction of globalized and exclusively Western and scientific, medical knowledge and practice?