This collection expands the history of Chinese medicine by bridging the philosophical concerns of epistemology and the history and cultural politics of transregional medical formations. Topics range from the spread of gingko’s popularity from East Asia to the West to the appeal of acupuncture for complementing in-vitro fertilization regimens, from the modernization of Chinese anatomy and forensic science to the evolving perceptions of the clinical efficacy of Chinese medicine. The individual essays cohere around the powerful theoretical-methodological approach, “historical epistemology,” with which scholars in science studies have already challenged the seemingly constant and timeless status of such rudimentary but pivotal dimensions of scientific process as knowledge, reason, argument, objectivity, evidence, fact, and truth. Yet given that landmark studies in historical epistemology rarely navigate outside the intellectual landscape of Western science and medicine, this book broadens our understanding of its application and significance by drawing on and exploring the rich cultures of Chinese medicine. In studying the globalizing role of medical objects, the contested premise of medical authority and legitimacy, and the syncretic transformations of metaphysical and ontological knowledge, contributors illuminate how the breadth of the historical study of Chinese medicine and its practices of knowledge-making in the modern period must be at once philosophical and transnational in scope. This book will appeal to students and scholars working in science studies and medical humanities as well as readers who are interested in the broader problems of translation, material culture, and the global circulation of knowledge.
This chapter introduces the volume by situating historical epistemology in its proper intellectual and cultural genealogy (from the late nineteenth century to the present), by arguing for the usefulness of historical epistemology to move beyond the limitation of the medicalization thesis, and by providing an overview of the book and delineating a history of the objects, authority, and existence of modern Chinese medicine that connects the broader social forces and challenges of globalization to the internal epistemic formations of East Asian medical knowledge.