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"Good" Manufacturing by Whose Standards? Remaking Concepts of Quality, Safety, and Value in the Production of Tibetan Medicines
Anthropological Quarterly
Format: Journal Article
Publication Year: 2011
Pages: 331 - 378
Source ID: shanti-sources-96141
Abstract: This essay analyzes the impacts of global and national pharmaceutical governance on the production of traditional medicines--specifically the making and marketing of Tibetan medicines in contemporary China. Based on research conducted in Tibetan medical factories and with practitioners, producers, and consumers of Tibetan medicines in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR) and Qinghai Province between 2002-2010, this article presents ethnographic evidence for the ways Tibetan knowledge systems and the value of medicines themselves are being transformed through interlinked engagements with science, technology, and the market. I focus on the implementation of Good Manufacturing Practices (GMP) and related regulations: state-mandated standards that govern the conditions under which raw materials are evaluated, medicines are made, and finished products are sold. This article responds to calls for an anthropology of pharmaceutical practice in the context of social transformation. I propose that ethnography of Tibetan pharmaceutical production provides an apt illustration of global governance in action because it shows how shifts in medical production practices are tied to much larger processes of political and economic change within China and beyond. Further, my examination of points of incommensurability and ambivalence with respect to GMP regulations contributes to an anthropological analysis of the constitutive role cultural politics plays in the construction of value and meaning with respect to traditional medicine.