Workshop: Comparative perspectives on body materiality and structure in the history of Sinitic and East Asian medicines

call for papers [150-2]Workshop announcement: “Comparative perspectives on body materiality and structure

in the history of Sinitic and East Asian medicines”, October 2-4 2015,  University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI

Co-sponsored by The Wellcome Trust/”Beyond Tradition” Project at EASTmedicine, University of Westminster, London; the American Council of Learned Societies/Chiang Ching-kuo Foundation for International Scholarly Exchange; and the Department of Asian Languages and Cultures, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor, MI.

Description and goals

How did practitioners of East Asian medicine historically understand the material structures of the human body?  How did ideas from the Chinese (Sinitic) tradition compare to and interact with ideas from other healing traditions?  How did different actors create, assess, and disseminate knowledge about bodily structure, and how were perceptions of bodily structure intertwined with ideas about health, illness, and therapeutics?  Our workshop will address these questions in order to investigate an important—yet widely neglected–epistemological dynamic in the development of medicine in the East Asian region.

East Asian medical texts historically contained numerous discussions of the body’s structures and material components.  However, the scholarly tendency has been to assess these historical portrayals in terms of their distance from or similarity to the ideas of Western anatomical science.  Our workshop will challenge this interpretative bias by investigating East Asian views of the structural and material body on their own terms, taking them seriously as a form of knowledge that informed what healers believed and how they practiced. Our aim is to arrive at a better understanding of East Asian medicines while shifting the current analytical frameworks that bias cross-cultural comparisons of the body.

Invited participants:

Paper presenters: Paul Buell (Charite Medical School), Susan Burns (University of Chicago), Wong Seok Cha (Kyunghee Univ.), Shih-ch’i Chin (National Chengchi Univ.), Leslie DeVries (Univ. of Westminster),  Jianmin Li (Academia Sinica), Andreas Niehaus (Univ. of Ghent), Katharina Sabernig (Medical Univ. of Vienna), C. Pierce Salguero (The State Abington College of the Pennsylvania State Univ.), Volker Scheid (Univ. of Westminster), C. Michele Thompson (Southern Connecticut State Univ.), Daniel Trambaiolo (Univ. of Hong Kong), Yi-Li Wu (Univ. of Westminster/Univ. of Michigan), Ronit Yoeli-Tlalim (Univ. of London), Kiebok Yi (Univ. of Westminster).

Commentators: Juhn Young Ahn (Univ. of Michigan), Miranda Brown (Univ. of Michigan), Henry Buchtel (Lotus Center/Michigan Association for Acupuncture and Oriental Medicine), Aileen Das (Univ. of Michigan), Michael Sappol (National Library of Medicine), Hitomi Tonomura (Univ. of Michigan), Suzanna Zick (Univ. of Michigan)

For further details, contact Yi-Li Wu or see the workshop website at

About Paula

Paula lives in the vortex of academic life. She studies medieval Japanese history.
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