26 Nov 2013 12:00pm - 2:00pm CRASSH, Seminar room SG1, Ground floor


Finding Effective Cures in Southeast Asia c.1500-1700: Theories and Practices

Tara Alberts (University of York)

Lauren Minsky (New York University Abu Dhabi)


T Alberts. How do certain substances and objects become invested with value as curative commodities? How well do beliefs about curative commodities and methods of healing travel across boundaries – geographical, temporal, cultural, linguistic, religious? Such questions animate many historiographical, sociological, and anthropological enquiries into beliefs about health and healing. The development of beliefs about the efficacy of certain cures can be particularly difficult to trace in cosmopolitan centres of exchange and interaction. This paper addresses these issues through a series of case studies which follow European merchants and missionaries into various port cities of Southeast Asia in the sixteenth and seventeenth centuries. It explores their encounters with varied beliefs about health and healing in these trading centres, and analyses the strategies employed to assess claims of efficacy. It also explores European attempts to introduce new cures into these regions, and examines why certain cures were accepted or rejected by different communities. Through such case studies we can begin to outline how beliefs in the efficacy of certain substances and practices are socially constructed, and how theories of healing can be transmitted and translated between disparate groups



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