Jan Ovesen & Ing-Britt Trankell
At face value, this book is about medicine in Cambodia over the last
hundred years. At the same time, however, by using ‘medicine’ (in the sense of ideas, practices and institutions relating to health and illness) as a prism through which to view colonial and post-colonial Cambodian society more generally, it offers an historical and contemporary anthropology of the nation of Cambodia.
Rich in ethnographic detail derived from both contemporary anthropological fieldwork and colonial archival material, the study is an account of the simultaneous presence in Cambodia of two medical traditions: the modern, biomedical one first introduced by the French colonial power at the turn of the twentieth century, and the indigenous Khmer health cosmology. In their reliance on one or the other of the two traditions, to a large extent the Khmer people have been concerned about finding efficient medical treatment that also adheres to social norms (not least the emphasis on the morality of social relations). This concern is also evident in the prevailing medical pluralism in Cambodia today.