By Ronald L. Barrett, Jonathan P. Parry
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Additional info for Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern India
In addition to recognizing degrees in biomedicine (also known as allopathic or English medicine), the government of India officially acknowledges four-year degrees in Ayurveda, Unani, Tibetan, and homeopathic medicine. These systems often borrow from one another. Cultural diffusion has blended elements of Ayurveda and Unani for centuries (Leslie 1992), and Tibetan healers openly acknowledge the Ayurvedic roots of their tradition (Janes 1995). Many practitioners outside of biomedicine prescribe “English” antibiotics under certain circumstances.
In the interim, I participated in the daily lives of the Aghori and worked on improving my language skills. I also used this time to learn more about the lives of leprosy patients in several colonies and treatment centers in Banaras. During this clinic-based research, I relied on another kind of participant observation: one that built upon my previous experiences as a registered nurse generally and as a volunteer at a Banarsi street clinic more specifically. In contrast to the simultaneous actions and observations of active participation, I drew upon previous experiences in domains that partially intersected with those I was observing.
During the latter half of the nineteenth century, Hinduism consolidated into a rallying point for national identity within emerging independence movements. It was strongly linked to pan-Indian (but still non-Muslim) religious revivals and reforms. It also satisfied Western orientalists’ desire for a neatly delineated topic of study. These agendas informed the reification of Hinduism as a single world religion, despite Introduction 11 its myriad beliefs and traditions. They also informed the revision and syndication of Hindu histories through the lenses of more recently popular ideologies (Thapar 1997; Inden 1990).
Aghor Medicine: Pollution, Death, and Healing in Northern India by Ronald L. Barrett, Jonathan P. Parry