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The worlding of traditional Chinese medicine: A translocal study of knowledge, identity, and cultural politics in China and the United States.


This is an ethnography of the cultural processes by which "traditional Chinese medicine" is reinvented and transformed through its encounter with and integration into biomedical mainstreams in China and the United States. From July 1998 to December 1999, I carried out ethnographic and ethnohistorical research at colleges, hospitals, clinics and other organizations of traditional Chinese medicine in Shanghai and the San Francisco Bay Area. I used participant observation, interview, and archival research to study the everyday practice and discourse of traditional Chinese medicine within specific institutional and sociohistorical settings, and to trace how practitioners travel across institutional and national boundaries in negotiating knowledges and forging translocal communities. In conducting a multi-site field study, and by foregrounding the translocal actor-networks that cut across and bring together seemingly disparate sites, I was able to focus on the processes of interaction, connection, and displacement in transnational social formation. This ethnography writes about, first, how shifting local and translocal sociohistorical contexts shape the configurations of traditional Chinese medicine at specific ethnographic sites; second, how practitioners from diverse social and historical locations conceive of traditional Chinese medicine and science in daily practice to negotiate professional and larger social knowledges, identities and communities. At a broader level, I develop the concept of "worlding" to examine globalization as multiple sets of uneven, contingent processes that are envisioned and constituted in everyday life and from specific sociohistorical locations. In doing so, my ethnography adds to anthropological and historical studies of traditional Chinese medicine, cultural and social studies of science, medical anthropology, China studies, and interdisciplinary studies of transnationalism and globalization.