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C4 Making India a Global Healthcare Destination (project completed)

Making India a Global Healthcare Destination: A Social Study of High-Tech Hospitals and Neo-oriental Spas

Coordination: Laurent Pordié


This research project addresses the fast growing sector of medical and wellness tourism in India, and attempts to understand the ways by which India is promoted as a global health care destination. Modern health tourism is taking an increasingly prominent position in academic discourse. The main reason is the recent emergence of this form of tourism as an important player in the global health economy and in the transformation of the national health landscape in the host countries. In India, economists predict that over the next decade health tourism will grow to become one of the major drivers of the country’s economy. However, very little research has been done on the social and cultural encounters which prevail in such situations. What are the effects of health tourism on India’s health care system, particularly in terms of disparities of access? Does health tourism influence care standards in specialized hospitals and spas (techniques and technologies, patterns of communication, practice)? What cultural factors are involved in the economics of health tourism?
This multidisciplinary project comprises four main research axes: 1. National and international marketing strategies as they pertain to marketing networks, cost, and the use of high-tech representations and neo-oriental images; 2. Transformation of infrastructure and the use of ‘place’. How are ideas of culture combined, transformed, erased or emphasized according to various clinical settings and their location?; 3. Issues of ‘cultural translation’ as they pertain to the explanation of therapeutic action, and to the translation of biomedical or Asian medical terminologies. Matters of language and communication strategies are explored. Emphasis is given to examining the means deployed to facilitate cultural understanding between patients and medical practitioners in these contexts; 4. Globalization and the transformation of therapeutic practices. What impact does trans-national healthcare have on preexisting biomedical and other therapeutic practices in India?
The analytic baseline is concerned with the flows and mutual shaping of ideas, images, techniques, objects and bodies; patterns of self-representation (practitioners and patients); cultural stereotypes; the cultural dimension of health economics and the transformation of India’s health care sector. Overall, the project offers a unique grid for analyzing and interpreting the contemporary identities of India.

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