Monday, March 30, 2009

Politics of Vegetaion!

In a previous posting, I talked to some extent about a teacher I had in school who died of breast cancer. She never sought biomedical treatment for her disease. She was afraid. She never tried local/ alternative health care in terms of homeopathy or Ayurveda. She went for the religious healing that did not help her save her life.

People subscribe to different ideologies and practices for their health outcomes. Their reasons are as varied as the ways they choose. But still, to a large extent the biomedical model has come to dominate the most of the world. As this week's readings elaborate more on this, we find out about the Flexner Report.
The Flexner Report (also called Carnegie Foundation Bulletin Number Four) is a book-length study of medical education in the United States and Canada, written by the professional educator Abraham Flexner and published in 1910 under the aegis of the Carnegie Foundation. Many aspects of the present-day American medical profession stem from the Flexner Report and its aftermath. (source)
At some point not too long ago I would not have thought twice about this information. But now the first thing that came to my mind was "Who asked for this study?" and "Whose agendas got pushed forward with this research/ study?" My newly forming critical mind wondered how different is Carnegie Foundation from today's leading institutions such as the JHU CCC which we know does a lot of things without actually doing anything worthy.

It was interesting to read about the politics of phytotherapy and the power of plants that heal people. As Mohan always says, "Nothing is apolitical in this world," and finding the politics of knowledge and power in plants almost amused me as I realized that it is true. Perhaps looing closely we will also be able to find the politics of power in the Mexican folk healers' use of spritual water and other faith based prescriptions to illnesses (such as the experiences of my teacher).

Finally, perhaps the grounds of biomedicine will actually become unstable once new grounds and players emerge in the market for health care, and the politics of knowledge will restructure complexly. Who will emerge as the new dominant health care option? Homeopathy? Spiritual healings? Or will the might of biomedicine simply increase?


Lala said...

Raihan...your comment about JHU CCP has no substance. Look more into their work. In this week's readings if you notice, we are also reading a JHU scholar. Critical theory/ perspective is fine, but remember, before rejecting something, we have to look at the issue in all detail. Moreover, in the pluralistic approach, who are we to say what is worthy and what is not worthy...Even as I study critical theory with Mohan and u all, I am very afraid of it, as I feel it takes me to positions where I can critique everything. I can ask you to list the impactful achievements of "critical theory"....Pray what are they...

Raihan Jamil said...

It scares me too as critical theory may take us to places where nothing is good or everything has hidden agendas.

I wrote about JHU's CCP based on the discussion we had in our classes - on many occasions. I do not know enough yet to make a claim like that.

But I have enough confidence in my professor to believe what he says. Like Foucault says, (or Spiderman?) with knowledge comes expertise, and that brings power and authority (and responsibility?).

Mohan J. Dutta said...

This is an interesting discussion thread folks..Lala, notice your resistance/reactance to critique/criticism. Interrogate where that comes from. Where does your fear come from? What are the roots of your almost instinctive gut response? What are the purposes of interrogation in these sense of critical theory? What kinds of power and control play out through bureaucracies like JHU/CCP which become institutional structures for propagating the agendas of USAID and the US? What are the purposes of critiquing US funded development efforts? What are the purposes of critiquing USAID? Raihan, critical theory suggests that we not take anything at face value, not things that I state because I state them. My position of so-called expertise is subject to interrogation. Lala, even as you talk about impact, what are the kinds of impact we are looking at? Impact as defined by whom? To serve whom? With what goals? With what agendas? When you take-for-granted the claim of impact in the mainstream, you fail to interrogate the reality of impact. If there really were "real" impacts in the realm of development, why are we struggling today even more so with things like poverty and inequality after decades of having spent billions of dollars on so-called impactful campaigns that have legitimized and reproduced bureaucracies and dominant hegemons such as the JHU/CCP.

Lala said...

Thats true Mohan...discussing "impacts" is fraught with contestations...however we take too much comfort with "words"...being a critique forever is also akin to being in a comfort zone....the critic has to step out and get many of us know poverty and inequality ... experienced it as our "research interests" do?
I do not agree with Raihan...he is not stepping out and taking stances rather is political..comfortable in shadows, but his concern is justified. This concern cannot be dismissed and I will always question my critical stance which I am doing by writing this. Even as a critical theorist I critique the hegemony, I still dream of the "changed society" and for the dream I also need to see things in a different light. Its a question of living in contradictions for me...i cannot get comfortable in a "bounded" space...anyway, we should have more of this face to face discussion...and Raihan, for God's sake, stop making this statements that "I have enough confidence in my professor...". What are you trying to say? Do I not have the same confidence? Whom are you flattering with this "holier than thou" attitude? Of course Mohan is our guide and teacher...but what about you? Did your life start at Purdue? Did you learn something before here which you can share with us.....? I am tired of these "politically palatable" statements of yours...anyway, its your life..:)

Raihan Jamil said...

I do not need to flatter anyone here Lala, and your implication is obvious. I respectfully denounce yur statement.

I have openly said on many occasions that I do not know first hand about JHU/CCP etc. But you have to start from somewhere, and I chose to start from where we are being guided and who we are being guided by.

You have seen the practical world more than I did with your professional experiences. So I do not feel comfortable making personal statements of preferences such as "I think JHU is good/bad etc."

And I personally do not see any harm in following someone I respect, whether that makes it a 'holier than thou' attitude or not. I am OK with it.

I, however, agree with you that being critical of everything may in itself create a comfort zone for us- all rhetoric and no action. We do need to get out and get scarred.

Steph said...

Let me make some quick comments too, I feel this page needs some female input. I believe that criticizing and asking questions is good because if we would take everything for granted there would never be change that will most likely be needed, because sooner or later the "taking everything fro granted" attitude will create a hierarchy and some people will be better off than others. Thinking about it, we already have this kind of situation going so, so have been been taking things for granted for way too long. Are we still living life with this attitude? Most of us?

At the same time I do believe that criticizing should come along with make suggestions for improvement. As much as I personally hate people that criticize and then don't have a better idea, I also do not agree with such behavior on a bigger scale. If someone uses their intellect and knowledge to criticize, than I expect more from that person as far as making suggestions or giving advice on how we could do things better.

Lala said...

Thats what I expected denounce my statements time and again....that shows there is character!! I have a great respect for your thoughts and believe you will shape up to be a fine scholar...and thats the reason I was inciting you!!