Dissertation/Thesis Abstract

Medicine without the medical gaze: Theory, practice and phenomenology in Korean medicine
by Kim, Taewoo, Ph.D., State University of New York at Buffalo, 2011, 226; 3460766
Abstract (Summary)

This dissertation investigates Korean medicine in South Korea and brings the examination, responding to Marcus and Fischer's call for the "defamiliarization by epistemological critique," to the discussion of contemporary biomedicine. The present study selects the medical gaze as a medium of the juxtaposition of the two medicines, referring to Foucault's The Birth of the Clinic and Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception. The medical gaze, a powerful designation of modern medical perception, has as its premise a reductionist scope of seeing through the dual objectifications of spatialization and verbalization, and a particular mode of seeing which places its emphasis on the object perceived. With a comparative investigation of medicine with the medical gaze and without the medical gaze, this study attempts to illuminate how the two medical traditions diverge, resulting in different effects on a range of issues from therapeutic methods to views on human ontology. Korean medicine in South Korea exhibits distinguishing characteristics that facilitate a valuable site for this study's comparative framework, including development separate from the biomedical sectors, a distance consciously cultivated apart from the worldwide trends of modernization of traditional medicine (i.e., standardization, scientization, and integration with biomedicine), and continued manifold currents of medical tradition in which diverse indigenous epistemologies are cultivated for more efficacious theories and practices. Ethnographic investigation of the theory and practice of a number of currents of Korean medicine—schools of DongUiBoGam, Sasang medicine, and three acupuncture therapies—revealed its inclusive and relational medical view, rather than an exclusive and disconnecting gaze, with regard to the body and human beings in general. Korean medicine views diverse aspects of human existence as interrelated constituents with penetrating consistency, connecting outer appearances and inner states, emphasized Emotions and developed Organs (in the case of Sasang medicine), and the human and the cosmos. This view of interconnectedness markedly empowers the body, as opposed to the biomedical view that separates and disenfranchises it as a passive and should-be-managed entity. The ethnographic engagement in the field, including my own apprenticeship, revealed that Merleau-Ponty's Phenomenology of Perception meticulously explains East Asian medical perception. With the help of experienced teachers, medical archives, and East Asian medical notions, a novice organizes the "experience of perception," setting up medically-tinged "intentionality" that links the subject and objects of medical significance. Thus, virtuosity in East Asian medical tradition is located in the practitioner's body, rather than in up-to-date medical texts, pharmaceuticals, and diagnostic machines. The juxtaposition of Korean medicine with biomedicine shows that biomedicine's extraordinary view covers only a portion of the body, excluding its fundamental aspects such as vitality and dignity. The discrepancy between biomedicine's reductionist scope and its claim of covering the entirety of human existence lies at the center of the issue of biomedicalization.

Indexing (document details)
Advisor: Pollock, Donald
Commitee: Lanz, Tilman, McElroy, Ann
School: State University of New York at Buffalo
Department: Anthropology
School Location: United States -- New York
Source: DAI-A 72/09, Dissertation Abstracts International
Subjects: Cultural anthropology, Asian Studies, Alternative Medicine
Keywords: Biomedicine, Korea, Korean medicine, Medical gaze, Phenomenology
Publication Number: 3460766
ISBN: 978-1-124-73079-0
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