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Lecture, Lena Springer, 15th of October 2015, 4 pm

Ethnographies of trans-regional pharma-craft and science in contemporary China: One family as a case of encounters between providers of crude materia medica, and refiners of distinct formulae

Medicinals in China are on the one hand just crude substances that may be turned into scientific
pharmaceuticals, into traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), or into “minority” medicines. The latter
tend to be classified according to the “minority nationalities” (shaoshu minzu) of 1950s Maoist
China. Labels of products, however, increasingly contradict those ethnic classifications. Lena
Springer’s ethnographic fieldwork shows that refined formulae and delicate techniques of
processing constitute material cultural domains where various artisans, scholars and scientists
negotiate: Where do these medicinal substances belong and whom do they identify? As a
methodology, the case of one family provides unofficial histories of such Chinese materia medica.
The various family members deal with their own and with broader Asian regional historiographies,
they have found ways to engage with translocal disciplinary and scientific realms, and Springer
investigates how occupational encounters play out in their relations and envisioned developments.

Lena Springer is Research Fellow at EASTmedicine, University of
Westminster in London where she works on the Wellcome Trustfunded
project „Beyond Tradition: Ways of Knowing and Styles of
Practice in East Asian Medicines, 1000 to the present": Based on
fieldwork at sites in China where providers and prescribers of
medicines with conflicting histories coexist, she is writing a
monograph about Chinese medicinal substances. Lena has taught
courses in Sinology at the University of Vienna (2006-2013) and
was visiting researcher at the China Academy of Chinese Medical
Sciences during 2008. In Vienna she investigated how highlyskilled
Chinese medicine practitioners and their colleagues, clients
and family undergo (or are excluded from) processes of
establishing their positions in society. Her forthcoming first book
reconstructs narrated careers of senior Chinese medicine
practitioners in the PRC.


Thursday, 15th of October 2015, 4 pm

Institute for Social Anthropology (ISA)

Seminar room 1, 1030 Vienna, Apostelgasse 23



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