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Recipes for Immortality: Healing, Religion, and Community in South India (Hardback)
  • Recipes for Immortality: Healing, Religion, and Community in South India (Hardback)

Recipes for Immortality: Healing, Religion, and Community in South India (Hardback)

Hardback 272 Pages / Published: 19/02/2009
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In India today, the sick can choose from a range of medical options, including Western biomedicine, homeopathy, Sanskritic ayurveda, Tamil siddha, Islamic unani, and Gandhian nature cure, among others. This variety might seem surprising, given the rapid globalization of the medicines, institutions, and explanatory apparatus of Western medicine. While penicillin cures many ailments, however, the complexities of human health and medical experience leave much to chance, to cultural interpretations of healing, and to the imagination. Traditional doctors continue to thrive in the modern world, says Richard Weiss, because they employ imaginative resources that speak to the sense of identity, hope, and duty of millions of people. In this book, Weiss seeks to illuminate the present success of traditional doctors by examining the ways that siddha practitioners in Tamil South India have won the trust and patronage of patients. They do this, he shows, by offering affiliation to a timeless and pure community, the fantasy of a Tamil utopia, and even the prospect of immortality. They construct an imaginative, utopian world of a potent and pure Tamil medicine that stands in contrast to the manifest world of contemporary Tamil society, a world in which they vie with biomedical doctors for medical authority and clientele. This imagined world is not idle fantasy, argues Weiss, because it suggests work that Tamils should set for themselves: the recuperation of this utopian world through collecting and systematizing its scattered remains. In other words, siddha doctors hope to merge these two worlds, to reveal the traditional world to modernity, and to make siddha medical knowledge available to public scrutiny. such a merger, they suggest, will reveal to the world the glory of Tamil medicine and culture, which at this point exists most robustly in the hopeful writings of Tamil revivalism.

Publisher: Oxford University Press
ISBN: 9780195335231
Number of pages: 272
Weight: 514 g
Dimensions: 242 x 163 x 19 mm

This book is a skillful study of Siddha medicine, the least understood of the medical 'systems' of India. Richard Weiss writes with great craft and strategy about traditions competing for medical authority in postmodernity, and very capably explores the tense dialectics between secrecy and revelation, magic and rationality, loss and revivalism, and the extraordinary and the banal. This is required reading for anyone interested in Tamil culture and its unique expressions of concern with the legitimacy of its traditions. * Martha Ann Selby, Associate Professor of South Asian Studies, The University of Texas at Austin *
Recipes for Immortality offers a much-needed account of an understudied medical tradition in India. Moreover, in a clear and intelligible manner, the book exemplifies the analytical value that results from a careful blend of textual interpretation, ethnography, and cogent theoretical analysis. This book is essential reading for students and scholars of Indian medical history and Tamil Studies. * Anthony Cerulli, Asian Medicine. *

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