Thoughts Change

(Apologies, coming up with suitable titles has always been difficult)

As prep week is coming to an end, I have learned to consider topics in many different ways. Our research and discussions are definitely taking a humanistic, sociocultural approach to nature as well, striking my initial worries of the dominating science-oriented aspects of the trip.

Today, we started by talking about kanpo, 漢方 (Han way), defined by Wikipedia as the Japanese adaptation of Traditional Chinese Medicine. I began approaching the question in a very materialistic view, thinking about the environmental effects of the herbs and other materials used in the treatment (since most of them do come directly through foraging, harvesting, etc). I have always had a long-term interest in “traditional medicine” including wanting to pursue it as a career and doing a herb related science fair project in high school. Having grown up seeing a traditional medicine doctor monthly, I am much more familiar with the more inquiring techniques than diagnostic. Furthermore, my interest in Korean culture in middle and high school years led me to explore the development of similar practices in the peninsula. Because of my long interest, most of the information I learned today were not “surprising” or “novel.” What is interesting over the years is the resurgence of kanpo, in China as well, in multi-generational popularity. For the last two summers I spent in China, I was surrounded by long-term patients complaining about minor discomforts and praises for the treatments (and doctors) despite the high costs not covered by insurance. China has also increasingly used traditional medicine as a means to re-establish its national image and connect to the “Western” biomedical world with frequent international conferences and increasing funding for research. I am very excited to see how the practices are adopted in Japan by a doctor of Chinese origins.

The second discussion evolved around zoos and aquariums. I am surprised to hear about the history of the development of the attractions because I forgot how recently things have changed. In terms of animal viewing attractions, the sense of dominating has shifted to blurring the boundaries between humans and “the Other.” I still remain against the aquarium and zoos despite their educational and conservational values. I think I stand in the more extreme turf to say that contained studies of a species is “unnatural” (haha), since social ethics now dictate that is immoral to do to other humans. As much as I enjoy seeing roaming pandas at the conservation base in Sichuan, I do feel that by keeping them isolated from the world, they are more likely to experience unsettlement once released into the wild again. These are big questions that need very fine answers, but before anything else, I will see how my experience at a zoo and an aquarium goes.




Author: Gerlin Leu '19

Hello readers! I am Gerlin, an Asian Studies major focusing on religion in South (and Southeast) Asia (although thinking about pursuing academic studies about food culture and power.) I have been studying Japanese for two years now. My original plan was to look at religious NPO's collaborative efforts after 3/11 and how that has redefined the role of religion in society. I am currently also very obsessed with the theories of subaltern and postcolonialism, so these themes will echo through my posts. I enjoy taking photos and talking in person (more than blogging). じゃ、よろしくお願いします。