We will examine "western" understandings of health and disease in the light of other cultural traditions of health and healing. Our perceptions of ourselves as humans are profoundly influenced by what happens in the realms of medicine and science. This seminar proposes that a study of the medical and healing traditions that we call "western and eastern" will inform us, and allow us to explore the larger cultural paradigms that help define modern world views. First, we will study the concepts, assumptions, and methodologies that underlie western science and modern biomedicine, and their implications for practitioners and patients. In turn, we will explore understandings of health and disease, and methodologies of the classical, centuries-old medical systems of Asia, especially India and Tibet. To what extent can we understand such very different, so-called eastern approaches to health, disease, and treatments? How do they differ from historical and modern western understandings and practices? Will current revolutions in fields such as molecular genetics, immunology, neurobiology, and psychoneuroimmunology serve to deepen modern and age-old understandings of health and healing? Or further separate them? In what ways might one tradition inform another?
Articles, essays, books, films and guest speakers will form a rich context for discussions and writing. Writing assignments will include weekly papers (with an emphasis on revision), frequent commentary papers, and presentations during the term.
Proposed books ( all paperbacks):
- The Spirit Catches You and You Fall Down, Anne Fadiman (1997)
- The Lost Art of Healing, Bernard Lowe, MD (1999)
- The History of Medicine: A Very Short Introduction, William Bynum (2008)
- The Tibetan Book of Healing, Lobsang Rapgay (2005)
- The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks, Rebecca Skloot (2011)