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BAHAR Seminar, Thursday 20th May 2010: Maya Warrier on The Professionalisation of Ayurveda in Britain

DR MAYA WARRIER (Department of Theology and Religious Studies, University of Wales, Lampeter) spoke on “The Professionalisation of Ayurveda in Britain: The Twin Imperatives of Medicalisation and Spiritual Seeking” on Thursday, May 20th 2010, Humanities Building 1.31, 4 p.m. to 5.30 p.m.

Her paper explored developments relating to Ayurveda in the UK over the last decade, with a focus on changes brought about as a result of the Government’s move to introduce statutory self-regulation since the opening years of the current millennium. It focussed on a relatively young professional group, the Ayurvedic Practitioners Association (APA), which first emerged in 2005 in response to the government’s regulatory initiatives, and which has in a very short time become the largest and most influential of Ayurvedic professional groups in the UK. Drawing upon a combination of personal interviews with APA members and office bearers, participant observation at APA’s seminars and workshops for practitioners, and examination of publicity material generated by the organisation, her paper explored the extent to which this practitioners’ association can be said to have adapted to the dominant biomedical paradigm in its efforts to develop and promote Ayurveda.

APA’s conformance to the biomedical model is evident in the course content of the Ayurveda training programme it supports, as well as in the institutionalisation and systematisation of different aspects of its Ayurvedic provision and support services. Dr Warrier argued here, however, that this is not a case of biomedicalised systems and regulatory frameworks completely colonising the Ayurvedic milieu. Alongside this biomedicalisation, there is also equally in evidence a thriving counter-hegemonic subculture, marked by creativity and resistance to the dominant biomedical paradigm, which too is actively promoted and sustained by the APA. This subculture, which draws its sustenance from informal networks of ‘alternative spirituality’ and holistic health, plays a significant role in shaping the development of Ayurveda in its British context. The discourse of ‘spirituality’, she argued, is a crucial device which APA and its affiliates use to mediate the relationship between Ayurveda and biomedicine in novel ways not always concurrent either with classical Ayurvedic paradigms or with the medicalised version of Ayurveda predominant in contemporary South Asia.

Enquiries to Geoffrey Samuel

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