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Jour Fixe: "Is Medical Tourism Transcultural Hypogamy?"

Jun 29, 2017 04:00 pm to 06:00 pm
Organiser: Research Areas

Is Medical Tourism Transcultural Hypogamy?

Harish Naraindas



This essay attempts to make a set of interrelated arguments. It claims that the epithet medical tourism, which is of recent provenance, tacitly subscribes to a particular and narrow understanding of ‘medicine’, namely the Anglo-American variant of biomedicine. This variant, unlike its Continental European counterpart, does not countenance the Kur (spa/termas) as medical therapy, a therapy that is part of orthodox biomedicine on the Continent and one where pleasure and therapy often co-exist. The Anglo-American variant leads to an exclusive focus on what may be called ‘organ’ based therapy with an emphasis on surgical and technological intervention, where uninsured and underinsured ‘middle class’ patients undertake hypogamous travel from the White world to wog land. This is a reversal of older forms of hypergamous medical travel where rich wogs travelled from wog land to the White world for medical treatment. The reversal results in a binary of White vampires and wog victims and is responsible, in part, for the moral tension of the oxymoron called medical tourism, with the other part of the oxymoron being constituted by the seeming contradiction between pleasure and therapy. The vampire-victim binary often mutes the mediating virtuosos – doctors, medical travel operators, websites, and most importantly medical technology – in the analytical and explanatory canvas. In the light of this, the essay not only suggests that the epithet medical tourism needs careful scrutiny and needs to be situated as part of a longer genealogy and larger canvas to include all kinds of transnational, transcultural and transregional medical travel, but it also makes a plea for re-examining the kind of morality play that the epithet engenders by asking, among other things, if vampires could also be victims, and what happens to this binary when fringe (the kur/spa/termas) and alternative epistemes, such as Asian systems of medicine, are brought into play.


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