Southern Medicine for Southern People: Vietnamese Medicine in the Making (Cambridge Scholars Publishing, 2012) gives me hope for the future of edited volumes. Not only is it a fascinating and coherent treatment of the history and practice of Vietnamese medicine, but it’s also a wonderfully interdisciplinary collection of approaches that incorporates work by social scientists, humanists, and medical practitioners. The essays collectively challenge some pervasive assumptions about “traditional” versus “scientific” modes of knowledge, inviting readers to rethink our assumptions about traditional medical practices in Vietnam while offering a set of wonderful case studies to think with. This collection is a must-read for anyone working on the humanistic or social studies of medicine, but it’s also full of wonderful insights and for readers broadly interested in science studies, Asian studies, and colonial studies.
I spent a very energizing hour talking with Ayo Wahlberg, one of the volume co-editors. Our conversation ranged broadly from ethnographic practice in history and anthropology, to an inspiring journey across laboratory and countryside to find a local treatment for opium withdrawal, to the ways that “our medicine” took shape in the modern history of Vietnam.