Two main questions frame Sienna R. Craig
's beautifully written and carefully argued new book about Tibetan medical practices and cultures: How is efficacy determined, and what is at stake in those determinations?Healing Elements: Efficacy and the Social Ecologies of Tibetan Medicine
(University of California Press, 2012)guides readers through the ecologies of mind, body, and society within which Sowa Rigpa is practiced, understood, and transformed from rural Nepal to New York City. The first two chapters each chronicle a day spent in one of the main ethnographic sites featured in the book: a rural clinic and school in Mustang, Nepal; and a major medical institution in urban China. After this grounding in the wide varieties of experience that might collectively fall under the category of "Tibetan medicine," the following chapters explore how associated people, objects, and practices engage with the opportunities and challenges posed by encounters in very different contexts. These contexts range from warehouses meant to prepare drugs for the global pharmaceutical market, to government-supported medical facilities in Nepal and China, to dissertation defenses, to private clinics in a variety of towns and cities, to fields in which medicinal drugs grow wild, to randomized clinical drug trials. It is a fascinating story, a moving and engaging narrative, and a pleasure to read.