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September 19 , 2007

Taking Traditional Knowledge to the Market

The Modern Image of the Ayurvedic and Unani Industry, 19802000


Taking Traditional Knowledge to the Market explores the paradox at the heart of the ayurvedic and unani medicine manufacturing industry—to present itself as modern and traditional, common and professional at the same time. On the one hand, the natural, wholesome and authentic nature of these medicines is juxtaposed with the synthetic, violent and iatrogenic character of western medicines, which dominate the Indian market. They are linked to Indian popular culture, the heyday of Indian civilisation, and a humane approach to medicine. At the same time, large ayurvedic and unani manufacturers use modern science and technology to create a competitive edge and distance themselves from the image of backwardness, that also sticks to Indian medical traditions. Based on an ethnographic fieldwork, from 1996 to 2002, Maarten Bode studies five Indian ayurvedic and unani medicine firms—Hamdard, Zandu, Dabur, Himalaya and Arya Vaidya Sala. The narrative follows the perspective of these manufacturers and hence provides an insight into the categorisations and the characteristics of the consumer. Bode also reveals that researches conducted by large ayurvedic and unani manufacturers on their best-selling brands follow logic-positivistic and biomedical lines, often ignoring humoral concepts and classical pharmacological notions.
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