Fluent Bodies

Ayurvedic Remedies for Postcolonial Imbalance

Fluent Bodies

Body, Commodity, Text

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Book Pages: 328 Illustrations: 16 illus., 1 table Published: October 2002

Anthropology > Cultural Anthropology, Asian Studies > South Asia, Postcolonial and Colonial Studies

Fluent Bodies examines the modernization of the indigenous healing practice, Ayurveda, in India. Combining contemporary ethnography with a study of key historical moments as glimpsed through early-twentieth-century texts, Jean M. Langford argues that as Ayurveda evolved from an eclectic set of healing practices into a sign of Indian national culture, it was reimagined as a healing force not simply for bodily disorders but for colonial and postcolonial ills.
Interweaving theory with narrative, Langford explores the strategies of contemporary practitioners who reconfigure Ayurvedic knowledge through institutions and technologies such as hospitals, anatomy labs, clinical trials, and sonograms. She shows how practitioners appropriate, transform, or circumvent the knowledge practices implicit in these institutions and technologies, destabilizing such categories as medicine, culture, science, symptom, and self, even as they deploy them in clinical practice. Ultimately, this study points to the future of Ayurveda in a transnational era as a remedy not only for the wounds of colonialism but also for an imagined cultural emptiness at the heart of global modernity.


"[A] fine example of contemporary research located within a post-modern framework." — Farah M. Shroff , Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology

"[A] rich and provocative study. . . ." — Murphy Halliburton , Medical Anthropology Quarterly

"[I]lluminating. . . . [Langford's] accessible examination of the neo-orientalism with which modern Ayurveda and the development of its terminology is constructed will be of importance to scholars (and students) of a variety of disciplines." — Frederick M. Smith , Religious Studies Review

"This is an important book. Jean M. Langford provides an insightful description of how different ayurvedic traditions developed and coexisted in both colonial and independent India. . . . The author's formidable linguistic, analytical, and writing skills shine through in this book. . . . [C]ompelling and instructive. . . . [U]ndergraduates and postgraduates, as well as teachers in history and anthropology departments worldwide, are likely to find it of great interest." — Sanjoy Bhattacharya , American Historical Review

“This rich study incorporates a wide range of contemporary and historical materials to make wonderful theoretical interventions into the literature on Ayurveda and India. Langford pulls the reader into a new understanding of the nuanced relationships between history, nation, modernity, clinical debate, and the practices of Ayurveda.” — Vincanne Adams, author of Doctors for Democracy: Health Professionals in the Nepal Revolution


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Author/Editor Bios Back to Top

Jean M. Langford is Assistant Professor of Anthropology at the University of Minnesota.

Table of Contents Back to Top

1. (Re)inventing Ayurveda

2. Ayurvedic Interiors

3. Healing National Culture

4. The Effect of Externality

5. Clinical Gazes

6. Medical Simulations

7. Parodies of Selfhood






Sales/Territorial Rights: World

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Winner, Rachel Carson Prize, Society for the Social Studies of Science

Additional InformationBack to Top
Paper ISBN: 978-0-8223-2948-0 / Cloth ISBN: 978-0-8223-2931-2
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