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Ayurveda: Modern and
Global Identities

Conference
Held in Cambridge

By  Courtesy The Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research

On Friday 2 and Saturday 3 July 2004 the Dharam Hinduja Institute of Indic Research (DHIIR), based at the Faculty of Divinity, University of Cambridge, hosted its 8th International Conference. The conference discussed the history and development of Modern and Global Ayurveda as part of the second section of a larger project, the Indic Health and Medicine Research Programme (IHMRP), which has been the focus of DHIIR research since October 2000.

An international network of scholars, practitioners and experts presented their research at this conference. Their presentations covered a wide range of methodological points of view, discussing the case of Modern and Global Ayurveda from historical, textual, anthropological, sociopolitical, economic, biomedical and pharmacological perspectives.

'Modern Ayurveda' is here understood to start with the processes of professionalization and institutionalization brought about in India by what has been called the 19th century revivalism of Ayurveda. 'Global Ayurveda', on the other hand, refers to the more cosmopolitan and geographically widespread processes of popularization and acculturation set in motion in the 1980s.

Early East-West exchanges (16th century onward) were largely limited to the pharmaceutical and botanical sciences and disregarded Ayurvedic epistemology. Pharmaceutical interests still form a powerful force in the politics of Modern Ayurveda and shape both Indian and transnational perceptions of Ayurvedic resources. In contrast, the more recent wave of global and popular interest in Indic forms of knowledge (including Global

Ayurveda) aims at developing 'holistic' lifestyles, and tends to include elements of religiophilosophical speculation and of 'spirituality'. Such borrowings, however, often substantially altered or developed through the process of transmission, are not always properly acknowledged.

Ayurvedic approaches to health and wellbeing are just beginning to become recognized and, to a lesser extent, integrated in the context of modern medical sciences and healthcare. Assimilation at the level of complementary or integrative forms of medicine and self-care has however been more widespread. In both cases it is of crucial importance that reliable data and information be gathered on the development and dynamics of these phenomena. It is only on the basis of such knowledge that useful and constructive exchange between Eastern and Western traditions of medicine and healing will take place..

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