Helen Lambert

Health care, hierarchy and the intracultural politics of recognition: Medical pluralism and its narratives as ethnographic objects

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Medical pluralism has been a major topic of interest among anthropologists working on health, illness, medicine and treatment in diverse regional settings for the past half-century. Studies explicitly focused on explaining the "co-existence of medical traditions" were particularly common in the latter decades of the twentieth century, since when interest in the topic, so defined, appears to have declined. This paper summarises some trends in anthropological scholarship associated with the rise and fall of interest in this topic and discusses ways in which 'medical pluralism' has frequently been misconceived. It then introduces a case study of India through which to demonstrate the possibilities of an alternative conceptualisation of medical pluralism as referring to the character of medical plurality, which requires empirical investigation.


  • Medical Pluralism
  • India
  • Governance
  • Traditional Medicine
  • Ethnography


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