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Of Shastric ‘Yogams’ and Polyherbals

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Exogenous Logics and the Creolisation of the Contemporary Ayurvedic Formulary

image of Asian Medicine

This is an essay on the formulary logic of contemporary ayurvedic drugs. It suggests that there are three different ways of conceiving this logic: the biomedical formulary, the polyherbal formulary of the West, and the ayurvedic formulary. The ayurvedic formulary has a long history of endogenous innovation. Its epistemic logic is best understood through the language of a shastric yogam. This paper will attempt to look at what this logic entails and how it is being transformed by contemporary drug making practices. The transformation produces a range of therapeutic possibilities that bears comparison with and resembles, however, not the biomedical but the polyherbal formulary of the contemporary West. This results neither in a straightforward ‘biomedicalisation’ nor in a ‘herbalisation’ of Ayurveda but leads instead, through a mangling of epistemic registers, to its creolisation and the production of a new ‘formulary language’ which is carefully and critically addressed.

Affiliations: 1: Centre for the Study of Social Systems, Jawaharlal Nehru University Delhi


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