Since the 1980s there has been a growth in the numbers of female Tibetan medicine practitioners, the so-called amchi, in areas where the Tibetan ‘science of healing’ (sowa rigpa) is practiced: Tibetan areas of China, the Tibetan exile community in India, in Bhutan, Ladakh, Nepal, and in Buryatia and Mongolia. It is currently little understood how the increasing numbers of women amchi have come about, what challenges and opportunities this growth has fostered for themselves and their patients, and what its health outcomes are. Using a combination of historical and ethnographic methods, and a case study approach based on research in the Tibet Autonomous Region (TAR), Bhutan and the Tibetan exile community in India, this project will document and analyse the life stories and medical work of modern day female amchi. The research will investigate and analyse the effect of amchi’s gender on patients and overall community health, in particular through the opening up of a new field of women and children’s health care within Tibetan medicine. The proposed project is firmly situated in the context of rapid modernisation of traditional health care. It will identify important features of gendered sowa rigpa knowledge and practice beneficial to patients, as well as possible transformations through developments in the modernisation of sowa rigpa. The results of this study are expected to provide a solid basis for any academic, political or medical engagement with Tibetan medicine and with health care and community medicine in the areas under study. The outcomes may have the potential to guide future health policy in the domain of women and children’s health in Tibet, Bhutan and among exile-Tibetans. This endeavor is highly innovative. There is no comprehensive study of professional female amchi so far, nor is there research on the impact of their work on community health. Yet it has been shown that gender is a crucial factor in the delivery and outcome of health care.
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