Recipes for Immortality: Healing, Religion, and Community in South India
Despite the global spread of Western medical practice, traditional doctors are still able to thrive in the modern world. In Recipes for Immortality, 1998 IDRF Fellow Richard Weiss illuminates their continued success by examining the ways in which siddha medical practitioners in Tamil South India garner authority and credibility. While biomedicine might alleviate a patient’s physical distress, siddha doctors offer their clientele much more: affiliation to a timeless and pure Tamil community. While shedding light on their lives, vocations, and aspirations, Weiss also documents the challenges that siddha doctors face in the modern world as they are caught between two poles: a biomedical system that claims universal efficacy, and the rival traditional medicine, ayurveda, which is promoted as the national medicine of an autonomous Indian state. Drawing on ethnographic data; premodern Tamil texts on medicine, alchemy, and yoga; government archival resources; college textbooks; and popular literature on siddha medicine and on the siddhar yogis, he presents an in-depth study of this traditional system of knowledge, which serves the medical needs of millions of Indians. Recipes for Immortality speaks to wider political and religious dimensions of medical discourse in our modern world and proves that medical authority is based not only on physical effectiveness, but also on imaginative processes that relate to personal and social identities, conceptions of history, and utopian promise. Buy from Amazon
Published: Oxford University Press, 2009
Citation: Weiss, Richard S., Recipes for Immortality: Healing, Religion, and Community in South India (New York: Oxford University Press, 2009).