|Title||Convergent lines of descent: symptoms, patterns, constellations & the emergent interface of systems biology and Chinese medicine|
During the first decade of the twenty-first century, a network composed of politicians, regulators, bioscientists, clinical researchers, and Chinese medicine specialists has emerged that seeks to bridge an imagined gulf between the modern West and ancient China in order to create a new type of personalized medicine. The central building block of this bridge is the Chinese medical concept of zheng 證/証, variously translated into English as syndrome, pattern, or type. My paper places side by side two different genealogies of how zheng assumed this central role. The first genealogy examines the process by means of which zheng came to be considered as something shared by both ancient China and cutting-edge biological science and, by extension, how it manages to hold together the entire institutional, political, and economic framework into which this bridge is embedded and which it co-creates. The second genealogy shows zheng to be central to a much older series of redefinitions of Chinese medicine and Chinese medical practice that extend from the eleventh century to the present. Read together, these two genealogies—neither of which should be seen as exhaustive—raise three important issues that are further discussed in the conclusion of the paper. First, I explore how the concept of zheng has come to tie a medical tradition derided by its adversaries for being a pseudoscience to one of the most cutting-edge fields of bioscience research. I ask what is at stake in this synthesis, for whom, and why, and how it transforms Chinese medicine and/or systems biology along the way. Second, I am interested in finding out how and why the very same concept can be at the heart of two apparently agonistic visions of Chinese medicine's future as it is popularly imagined in China today. Finally, I insist that the medical humanities need to become actively involved in the construction of emergent articulations such as the ones I am exploring. Merely writing a history of the present will not be productive unless its critique can somehow be articulated into the very processes of emergence that historians or anthropologists seek to examine.
|Journal||East Asian Science, Technology and Society: an International Journal|
|Journal citation||8 (1), pp. 107-139|
|Publisher||Duke University Press|
|Digital Object Identifier (DOI)||doi:10.1215/18752160-2407180|