“Praying for the Cure”
Transformations of Japanese Medical Traditions and the Question of Modernity
Keywords:science, medicine, West, China, Japan, tradition, modernity, epidemic, disease, epistemology
“Science” and “magic” are not simply two opposing thought processes which have a straightforward relationship, first, on a presumed axis of progress—from magic to science, and second, within the context of a presumed cultural divide—Western “science” vs. Eastern “tradition”. The aim of this paper is to examine in historical perspective the introduction of so-called “Western medicine” in Japan and examine the idea that through this introduction “traditional” Chinese knowledge was simply superseded by “modern” Western science. By looking into the intellectual currents within the field of medicine, specifically in eighteenth-century Japan, and comparing them to those in the West, the article tries to challenge the narrative of “modernity” as a sort of uniquely Western achievement defined by “disenchantment”, “rationalism” and “science”.
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