Osiris, Volume 36
Therapeutic Properties: Global Medical Cultures, Knowledge, and Law
Edited by Helen Tilley
University of Chicago Press Journals, 2021
This volume of Osiris takes as its point of departure a simple premise: we have yet to fully flesh out the complex historical interplay between medicine and law across the globe. Therapeutic Properties takes an inventive look at the issue, presenting welcome insights on the worldwide ascendancy of biomedicine, the persistence of nonofficial and unorthodox approaches to healing, and the legal contexts that have served to shape these dynamics.
The contributions draw upon source material from the Americas, Africa, Western Europe, the Caribbean, and Asia to trace the influence of penal and civil codes, courts and constitutions, and patents and intellectual properties on not only health practices but also the very foundations of state-sanctioned medicine. The authors explore, too, how institutions of global governance, including those underpinning empires and trade, have historically created feedback loops that enabled laws and regulatory regimes to spread, amplifying their effects and standardizing approaches to diseases, drugs, professions, personhood, and well-being along the way. Highlighting the payoff of interdisciplinary and transnational analyses, this volume adroitly teases apart how different actors fought to write the rules of global health, rendering certain approaches to life and death irrelevant and invisible, others pathological and punishable by law, and others still, normal and natural.