Shvetapradara: Negotiating Ayurveda and Biomedicine in Contemporary Ayurvedic Gynecology

Goebel, Linde S.

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Abstract

Leukorrhea, an increased amount of vaginal discharge, is considered by some the female equivalent to the culture-bound syndrome of semen loss anxiety (dhat syndrome) of South Asian men, and by others an idiom of distress. Ayurvedic concepts of the body are often cited as the underlying cause of Indian women's undue concern with it. It has been suggested that ayurvedic doctors recognize and treat shvetapradara, the ayurvedic equivalent of leukorrhea, as a disease which could have serious consequences if left unattended, but literature on the actual practice of modern vaidyas is rare, and ayurvedic gynecology as a separate branch of professionalized and institutionalized Ayurveda has not received any attention so far.

By taking on a praxiographic approach I follow shvetapradara through different sites and contexts within a government Ayurveda university hospital in North-West India, exploring the vaidyas' practices and academic work surrounding it, the materialities involved, both the scope and restrictions defining their practice, and subsequently the object enacted. Through this process and I arrive at a reflexion of contemporary professional ayurvedic practice, which is an amalgamation of biomedical and ayurvedic aspects.

I conclude that what goes under the name of shvetapradara in modern ayurvedic practice is a multiplicity of objects, whose identities differ according to their context, but are not congruent with what anthropologists and cross-cultural psychiatrists refer to in the context of dhat syndrome and somatization. I propose with regards to the study of modern institutionalized and professionalized Ayurveda that it be studied as its own system of medicine. Its specific way of using the language and practice of both Ayurveda and biomedicine deserves to be studied in its own right and without being reduced to two incommensurable parts. Modern professional Ayurveda in India is constituted of ayurvedic and biomedical aspects, but the whole of it is different than the sum of its parts.

Document type: Master thesis
Place of Publication: Heidelberg
Date: 2014
Supervisor: Sax, Prof. Dr. William
Version: Primary publication
Date Deposited: 6 March 2014
Faculties / Institutes: Universitäten / Institute > South Asia Institute / Department of Ethnology
DDC-classification: Customs, etiquette, folklore
Controlled Subjects: Ayurveda, Gynäkologie, Fluor <Medizin>
Uncontrolled Keywords: Ayurveda, Gynäkologie, Leukorrhea / Ayurveda, Gynecology, Leukorrhea
Subject (classification): Anthropology
Countries/Regions: India
Series: Subjects > Health and Society in South Asia Series
Volume: 11