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Bio-politics and the promotion of traditional herbal medicine in Vietnam

[journal article]

Wahlberg, Ayo

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Abstract It is often suggested that, in the past 50 years, Vietnam has experienced a traditional medicine ‘revival’ that can be traced back to late President Ho Chi Minh's 1955 appeal ‘to study means of uniting the effects of oriental remedies with those of Europe’. In this article, I demonstrate how traditional herbal medicine came to be recruited as an important component of national efforts to promote the public health of urban and rural populations in Vietnam. Importantly, this has entailed a rejection of a colonial biopolitics that sought to marginalize ‘quackery’ in favour of a postcolonial bio-politics that aims to promote the ‘appropriate’ use of traditional herbal medicines. While the Vietnamese case bears many parallels to other countries in this respect, notably China, Vietnam's ancient history of medicine, postcolonial isolation and extensive health delivery network have resulted in a unique strategy that encourages rural populations to become self-sufficient in the herbal treatment of their most common illnesses.
Keywords Vietnam
Free Keywords bio-politics; quackery; sociology of traditional medicine; traditional herbal medicine;
Document language English
Publication Year 2006
Page/Pages p. 123-147
Journal Health, 10 (2006) 2
Status Postprint; peer reviewed
Licence PEER Licence Agreement (applicable only to documents from PEER project)