Ashwak Hauter | Prophetic Medicine: Reform, Authority, and Medical Knowledge in the face of 'Afiya (Well-Being)

This is an Archive of a Past Event

In hospitals and clinics across the sites of my fieldwork in Jordan, Yemen, and Saudi Arabia, patients and doctors are committed to the reform (islah) of biomedicine through engaging the historical Islamic medical tradition. This talk follows two physicians in Jeddah conducting clinical trials of “prophetic medicine” at a university teaching hospital. They sought clinical evidence (dalil) for the long-term benefit of addressing the patient as a psycho-ethical subject, rather than the short-term efficacy of only treating patients’ physical bodies (saha). 

Yet these interlocutors differed on how to reconcile Islamic and biomedical traditions: one called for an integration of clinical medicine and Islamic thought, while the other insisted on distinguishing them to maintain the incommensurability of divine knowledge. Not unlike other scenes of medical reform, their debate demonstrates the polysemy of the Arabic term rashada, which can refer to both prescription (in the medical sense) and guidance (in the religious sense). Attending to both these senses in the context of the hospital and in the aftermath of the Arab uprisings (already more than ten years old) troubles the inherited sites of prescriptive authority from which evidence, benefit, pardon, and accountability are adjudicated. Even though these new prescriptive practices emerge in the space of the clinic, their movement of religious-medical reform must be understood in relation to the ongoing regional crisis.


About the Speaker

Ashwak Sam Hauter is an assistant professor of medical anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. She is the author of “Fright and the Fraying of Community” published in Cultural Anthropology and “Madness, Pain, & Ikhtilāṭ al-ʿaql"

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