Global hybrids? 'Eastern traditions' of health and wellness in the West

Newcombe, Suzanne (2012). Global hybrids? 'Eastern traditions' of health and wellness in the West. In: Nair-Venugopal, Shanta ed. The Gaze of the West and Framings of the East. Frontiers of Globalization. Basingstoke: Palgrave Macmillan, pp. 202–217.

DOI: https://doi.org/10.1057/9781137009289

URL: http://www.palgrave.com/gp/book/9780230302921

Abstract

Many traditions of health and well-being with ostensibly "Eastern" origins have become both accessible and popular in "the West". This chapter will first outline contemporary use of complementary and alternative medicine (CAM) and then briefly put into context the rise of its popularity in "the West". For the purposes of this chapter "the West" will be assumed to consist of Europe, the United States and the Anglophone Commonwealth nations but the focus will be weighted towards Britain. The chapter will argue that while Westerners use CAM in various ways, for the majority this involves a significant overlap with biomedicine. There is, for some, an idealization of Eastern traditions of health and wellness as being ancient, pure and natural traditions which must - by definition - avoid the pitfalls of toxicity and side effects believed to be endemic to biomedicine, a perspective that will be described as a kind of Romantic Orientalism. This Romantic Orientalism is a significant feature of the use of Eastern traditions of health and wellness in the West. However, the actual practice and use of Eastern traditions might be better described by what William Sax has termed the "asymmetrical translations" of non-Western health traditions, which embody a ubiquitous power imbalance in relationship to the more dominant "Western" biomedical model (Sax, 2009).

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