The impact of co-option on herbalism: A bifurcation in epistemology and practice

Singer, Judy; Fisher, Kath
February 2007
Health Sociology Review;Feb2007, Vol. 16 Issue 1, p18
Academic Journal
This paper examines the primarily sociological and anthropological literature that discusses the current challenges posed by the 'modernisation' of herbal knowledge through its co-option by biomedicine. Through this examination we identify evidence for a trend which suggests this co-option is a tactical strategy to preserve biomedical dominance through control of the knowledge base of 'other' medicines. Having identified such a trend, we examine the invention of the term 'complementary and alternative medicine' (CAM), suggesting that the universalising of non-orthodox health care practices under this construct is a problematic symptom of biomedical co-option. We then go on to argue that a possible outcome of biomedical co-option is an epistemological bifurcation between 'traditionally' orientated and 'biomedically' informed herbal knowledge and practice, a phenomenon whose implications demand serious recognition and analysis, not only in the academic literature, but also in wider public debates.


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