Elucidating the Relationship between Chinese Medicine and Systems Biology: A Multi-Sited Ethnography

Glatz, S. 2019. Elucidating the Relationship between Chinese Medicine and Systems Biology: A Multi-Sited Ethnography. PhD thesis University of Westminster School of Life Sciences

TitleElucidating the Relationship between Chinese Medicine and Systems Biology: A Multi-Sited Ethnography
TypePhD thesis
AuthorsGlatz, S.

Ever since Chinese medicine encountered modern science in the late nineteenth century, the relationship between the two traditions has been extremely one-sided. At best, scientists perceived Chinese medicine as an archive of primitive knowledge from which potentially useful drugs could be extracted. Chinese medicine practitioners themselves, meanwhile, began a long struggle throughout the twentieth century to modernise their medicine with the help of Western theories and technology. At the turn of the twenty-first century, the involvement of systems biologists in Chinese medicine research created a new encounter, however, that, at least in the rhetoric of its actors, promised a very different kind of relationship: a match of two systems brought together by a shared interest in understanding life, health, illness and medicine as intrinsically complex and not amenable to the reductionist approaches of mainstream science. This research empirically investigates the nature of this relationship and how it emerged. It aims to contribute to the contemporary history of Chinese medicine by exploring the relationship between Chinese medicine and systems biology. This thesis argues that a heterogeneous network evolved, which is composed of human and nonhuman actors and their interactions created globally distributed research projects on Chinese medicine and systems biology.
For the purpose of this research, a multi-sited ethnography was conducted over a period of eleven months and a literature survey was employed to trace the start and the development of this heterogeneous network. Ethnographic data reveals in four chapters on the rhetoric and perceptions of the actors, their involvement in Chinese medicine research, their laboratory practice, and the networks and political ties, which developed into a heterogeneous network of Chinese medicine and systems biology research. This research concludes that in the 2000s, a heterogeneous network emerged through the shared ideologies of systems thinking and holism. The shared ideologies set the groundwork for systems biologists to engage with Chinese medicine on its own terms, and created scientific practices, co-operation and funding opportunities between Europe and China.

File Access Level
Open (open metadata and files)
Publication dates
PublishedMay 2019

Permalink - https://westminsterresearch.westminster.ac.uk/item/qy82x/elucidating-the-relationship-between-chinese-medicine-and-systems-biology-a-multi-sited-ethnography

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