Various attempts at language standardization have been central in efforts to integrate Chinese medicine into a global, mainstream medical framework. At the same time, language has also proven critical in efforts to integrate Chinese medicine into personal frameworks of meaning as students around the globe grapple with multiple translations. In an effort to convey some of these diverse experiences of standardization and plurality of translations, this article offers four “snapshots” in the life of language standardization in Chinese medicine. These snapshots are derived from extensive, multisited ethnographic research conducted over four years in diverse settings in both China and the United States. The article thus offers an appreciation of standardization as an ongoing series of human encounters, a complex web of human networks shaping the always changing answers to seemingly simple questions about the motivations behind standardization, the methods used to create standards, and the implications of standards in an increasingly “global” Chinese medicine. As such, it contributes to an emerging “anthropology of translation” that underscores the role of human relationships, power, understanding, and interaction in translation.
Standardization and Its Discontents: Translation, Tension, and the Life of Language in Contemporary Chinese Medicine
Sonya Pritzker is a medical anthropologist and a licensed practitioner of Chinese medicine. Her research focuses on the global translation and dissemination of Chinese medical knowledge, including the linguistic choices of specific translators, as well as the transfer of research findings into clinical practice, the interpretation of textbooks by teachers, and the explanation of Chinese medical concepts to patients. She is also currently involved in several research studies pertaining to the development and practice of integrative medicine and person-centered medicine in the United States and the intersection of psychology and Chinese medicine in China.
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Sonya E. Pritzker; Standardization and Its Discontents: Translation, Tension, and the Life of Language in Contemporary Chinese Medicine. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 1 March 2014; 8 (1): 25–42. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/18752160-2406196
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