Cross-cultural comparisons face several methodological challenges. In an attempt at resolving some such challenges, Nathan Sivin has developed the framework of “cultural manifolds.” This framework includes all the pertinent dimensions of a complex phenomenon and the interactions that make all of these aspects into a single whole. In engaging with this framework, Anna Akasoy illustrates that the phenomena used in comparative approaches to cultural and intellectual history need to be subjected to a continuous change of perspectives. Writing about comparative history, (...) Warwick Anderson directs attention to an articulation between synchronic and diachronic modes of inquiry. In addition, he asks: If comparative studies require a number of collaborators, how does one coordinate the various contributors? And how does one ensure that the comparison is between separate entities, without mutual historical entanglement? Finally, how does comparative history stack up against more dynamic approaches, such as connected, transnational, and postcolonial histories? Gérard Colas, for his part, claims that comparisons cannot allow one to move away from the dominant Euroamerican conceptual framework. Should this indeed be the case, we should search for better ways of facilitating a “mutual pollination” between philosophies. Finally, Edmond Eh first asserts that Sivin fails to recognize the difference between comparisons within cultures and comparisons between cultures. He then argues that the application of generalism is limited to comparisons of historical nature. (shrink)
The great majority of the Chinese population depended on religious ritual, which often incorporated materia medica, for its health care. Of the therapeutic rituals available, those of popular religion—popular in the sense of participation by all social strata—were most accessible. Its priests were usually neighbors, farmers or craftsmen who performed their liturgical duties as they were needed, often qualified by their ability to be possessed by spirits. Here too the government shaped popular religion, partly by registering temples whose deities its (...) functionaries judged morally orthodox and effective, and in part by periodically persecuting those it did not register. People at every level of society believed that the gods were a bureaucracy, which supervised the operations of sky and earth. Laymen measured the efficacy of individual deities by their ability to meet people’s needs, the curing of ailments prominent among them. The gods enforced conventional morality, rewarding what the community valued and preventing or punishing what it feared. This chapter studies popular ritual therapies, examines their role in curing medical disorders, and explains why and how many medical authors adapted them. (shrink)
The history of science and technology has been a scholarly discipline with little attention given to the special needs of undergraduate teaching. What needs to be done to transform a discipline to an undergraduate subject? Suggestions include using the relation between science and technology as well as the role of interpreters in formulation of the popular world view. Relations with science and history departments are considered. Curriculum materials are surveyed with some recommendations for correcting deficiencies.