This article examines Amdo Tibetan people's experiences of gastric (pho nad) and gallbladder disorders (mkhris nad) in rural Qinghai. I illustrate how different and multifaceted the experience of illness can be when viewed from a home-based perspective in contrast to perspectives that have prevalently favored as a starting point health professionals or medical texts. I pay particular attention to the use of domestic space and practices pertaining to food and show how these uphold hierarchical kinship relations. Then I show how the upholding of hierarchical kinship arrangements in Tibetan households is a far greater concern than addressing individual health requirements. Tibetan people are portrayed as entangled in a demanding and complex web of social obligations and expectations, which are reinforced by religious beliefs and have an important impact on the Tibetan experience of illness and the trajectory of health-seeking behavior. Although people attempt to cure the symptoms through the intake of medicines in the acute phase of their illness experience, these ailments often fail to break the cycle of illness, as hierarchical family arrangements and religious preoccupations often override “biomedical” risks.
The Hierarchy of Food Consumption and Tibetan Experiences of Gastric and Gallbladder Disorders in Amdo
Patrizia Bassini obtained a doctorate from the Institute of Social and Cultural Anthropology, University of Oxford, for a study of home-based medicine on the Sino-Tibetan frontier. She held an OUP John Fell Fund postdoctoral fellowship before returning to live in Amdo, Tibet, where she currently pursues her anthropological research interests and deepens her knowledge of Tibetan and Chinese cultures.
Patrizia Bassini; The Hierarchy of Food Consumption and Tibetan Experiences of Gastric and Gallbladder Disorders in Amdo. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 1 September 2013; 7 (3): 453–466. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/18752160-2333796
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