Denise Glover on Karma in Tibetan Medicine

board_Board_DeniseThe SOAN department’s own Denise Glover recently delivered a lecture hosted by the Bioethics club here on campus, and the school’s newspaper provided this synopsis of the
event. Great work, Denise!

Compassion and Karma in Tibetan Medicine

By Angela Cookston

Denise Glover in the Sociology and Anthropology department gave a lecture hosted by the Bioethics Club on the concepts of compassion and karma in Tibetan medicine on Oct. 25.

Glover has done research in China’s Shangri-La province on the Tibetan medical industry and local knowledge of environment.

“Tibetan medicine, in particular, pulls a lot from Tibetan Buddhism,” Glover said. “So there are a lot of ideas that come from the religious tradition that are appropriated into the medical tradition. In fact, for a long time they weren’t really separate traditions at all.”

The medicinal tradition is based on indigenous knowledge of environment and written texts.

One of the most central texts is “The Four Tantras,” which was written mostly between the 11th and 12th centuries. “Doctors still use this,” Glover said. “It’s hard to find that kind of parallel in western medicine, for example. Who studies a text that old? They’re considered out of date. But in the Tibetan medical tradition, they’re seen as very central.”

Tibetan medicine uses Mahayana Buddhist figures as ideal images of what doctors should be. The Bodhisattva of Compassion, who are beings that could potentially reach enlightenment but choose to not to in order to help others, and the Medicine Buddha, who has all the knowledge of healing, are used in this way.

“In the medical tradition in Tibet, doctors are supposed to basically emulate this kind of being,” Glover said. “Not only do the doctors imagine themselves as the Medicine Buddha … but the patient will have to do a similar thing, which is to imagine the doctor as intricately connected to the medicine Buddha.”

Next, Tibetan medicine’s doctors see the body as a collection of three “humors.” “These things are considered as a combination of a substance and an energy,” Glover said.

The three humors are wind, bile and phlegm. “Each one of these is responsible for a different function in the body. So, for example, movement: wind is responsible for movement in the body. Bile is responsible for digestion. And phlegm is responsible for lubrication.”

When the three humors are balanced, a person is considered to be healthy. But an imbalance can cause problems.

In addition to causing physical problems, the humors can cause emotional or mental problems. “The humor of wind is linked to desire. Bile is linked to hatred. And phlegm is linked to closed-mindedness,” Glover said.

All of the humors have negative emotional effects on people. “In fact, you could argue from the Tibetan medical perspective that if you have a body, then you are likely to end up with some kind of imbalance,” Glover said. One could have too much desire, hatred and closed-mindedness.

“It’s almost like a very natural thing for people to get sick in this medical system,” Glover said. “It’s kind of different than other medical systems that state, you know, the natural state is a healthy state. Yeah, health is natural but so is illness in Tibetan medicine.”

The three humors can become imbalanced due to physical or emotional changes. Additionally, past negative actions, or bad karma, can cause illness.

“How can you tell if you’re sick because of humoral imbalance or because of karma?” Glover asked the room. “[Karma] is used to explain when things are not getting better. Like, the doctor is trying to figure out, trying to treat the patient and the treatments are not working.”

In Western medicine, this is similar to the concept of an idiopathic disease.

Tibetan medicine uses a slow-acting treatment process which can take months to heal the patient. If, after three different treatment plans, the patient is still ill, the doctor will diagnose their problem as karmic. Tibetan medicine doctors can’t treat karmic problems.

If a person is ill due to a karmic problem, they must go to a religious monk, who will help them attain spiritual balance once more. However, when the illness is due to karma from a past life, it is much more difficult and sometimes impossible to treat, since one can’t go back into their past life and fix the problem.

“To me what’s significant about these two ideas in Tibetan medicine is how both of these concepts really stress the agency of the patient. The patient actually has some responsibility in their own illness,” Glover said. “And then it also stresses, of course, the responsibility that the practitioner has to have good motivation. To really be wanting to help the person and not, for example, to be making a profit.”

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An Academic Workshop in Singapore

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In early 2017 I received an invitation from Dr Delphine Pagès-El Karoui (INALCO/Sorbonne) to join a small group of scholars in a collaborative workshop concerned with migrants and their experience(s) in the global city. I’ve just returned from the workshop, which was hosted by the Asia Research Institute at the National University of Singapore, and I thought I’d briefly describe the fascinating papers and conversations threaded through this two-day meeting.

IMG_0865The workshop itself was organized around researchers’ and scholars’ effort to grasp how migrants experience global cities and similar conurbations, with a regional focus on cities in Europe, in the Middle East, and in Asia. My own paper, entitled Transnational Labor Migrants in the Urban Landscapes of Contemporary Arabia, considered how the largely western foundations of urban planning have shaped the stunningly modern cities of Arabia, and thereby play a significant role in the experiences of the many foreign workers who build, service, and dwell in those very same cities.

Others’ papers were fascinating. Amongst the most memorable: architect and professor Yasser Elsheshtawy’s exploration of how Bangladeshi labor migrants utilize forgotten and marginal spaces in Abu Dhabi; Laure Assaf (EHESS/Universite Paris-Nanterre) analyzed how Abu Dhabi’s image and its interstitial spaces were a recurring trope in the Arab migrant youth’s hip-hop and rap videos on social media; Masaki Matsuo (Utsunomiya University) reconsidered how Furnivall’s idea of a plural society — a segregated form of ethnic diversity — provides a frame for understanding social relations in many global cities and societies in this era of mobility; Brenda Yeoh (National University of Singapore) and Michelle Foong (Hwa Chong International School) considered how the proliferation of college campuses in East Asia provide a new sort of cosmopolitan contact zone for students. Numerous other papers were equally fascinating, and many were concerned with Singapore itself. And additionally, the series of NUS graduate student presentations and contributions to the workshop were extraordinarily impressive.

IMG_0879On the last day of the workshop, after Singaporean professors K. C. Ho (National University of Singapore) and Brenda Yeoh (National University of Singapore) led us on a tour of historic colonial era portion of the city, we had a memorably fantastic Malay dinner at Mamanda restaurant. Malay cuisine is one facet of the tripartite ethnic and cultural diversity that the Singaporean state seeks to integrate in the city: the city and state actively push to integrate residents of Chinese, Malay, and South Asian heritage. These efforts even shape neighbors and building design in public sector housing, where a majority of Singaporeans live.

I had a fantastic (albeit brief) stay, and I’m looking forward to another visit.

Andrew

Professor Struna’s Talk Tomorrow!

struna 2The McIntyre Seminar Series


Inside the Human Exclusion Zone: Present and Future Landscapes of work and Automation in Warehousing and Logistics.

Jason Struna, Assistant Professor of Sociology

struna 1Wednesday, October 25
12:00 Noon
McIntyre 107

Are you intrigued or concerned by the increasingly common automation of human tasks via robotics in the workplace? Should you be? Professor Jason Struna will speak tomorrow about his research, which explores the social impacts of technologies used in the direction and management of work, and touches upon the labor process, the movement of goods, and social class dynamics in the global era.

Please join us! Bring your lunch — we’ll provide cookies for dessert.

SOAN Students and Faculty Win Major Research Awards at PSA’s 2017 Conference

SOAN students and faculty have for many years presented their research at the Pacific Sociological Association’s (PSA) Annual Meeting. This year’s meeting, held in Portland, April 6-9, 2017, was no exception. Besides four SOAN faculty participating in the conference, five SOAN students presented their original senior thesis research, including Kylie Young, Lizzy Chao, Annie Krepack, Leonard Henderson, and Allison Nasson, with each receiving in-depth feedback from faculty discussants and participants at their roundtables. We are proud of each of our SOAN students, who presented fascinating research on topics as diverse as “farmwives” and changing gender identities in rural communities, parental control over school lunches, hip-hop in global and local settings, and more.

This year we are also pleased to share the exciting news that SOAN major Allison Nasson and SOAN Associate Professor of Sociology Jennifer Utrata won two major research awards announced at PSA. These awards are significant given that the PSA, the oldest of sociology’s regional associations, includes sociology departments from the entire Pacific region of North America, including California, Washington, Oregon, British Columbia and Alberta in Canada, Nevada, Utah, Arizona, New Mexico, Alaska, Wyoming, and more, with only one recipient in each award category.

At the Presidential Address and Awards Ceremony on Friday evening, Allison Nasson, a senior SOAN student, won the 2017 Distinguished Undergraduate Student Paper Award for her paper entitled “Donor-Friendly Victimhood: Narrative Construction as a Fundraising Strategy.” The paper, lauded for its high professional quality, and building on her summer research award work, examines how personal narratives have become a key fundraising tool for nonprofits as they compete for attention and funding. It argues that studying the selection, manipulation, and circulation of these stories provides insight into which identities are being privileged, whose stories are going untold, and the potential ramifications of these trends.

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SOAN senior Allison Nasson receiving the 2017 PSA Undergraduate Student Paper Award from Dr. Kposowa, Awards Committee Chair and Professor of Sociology, UC-Riverside.

We are impressed by Allison’s achievement, and cannot help but feel some SOAN pride more generally given that this is the second consecutive year and the fifth time in the past decade that a Puget Sound SOAN student has won one of these highly competitive undergraduate student paper awards.

At the same awards ceremony, Jennifer Utrata, Associate Professor of Sociology in the SOAN Department, was awarded the 2017 PSA Distinguished Scholarship Award for her book, Women without Men: Single Mothers and Family Change in the New Russia (Cornell, 2015). The award recognizes major intellectual contributions embodied in a recently published book or a series of at least three articles on a common theme.

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Prof. Jennifer Utrata receiving the PSA Distinguished Scholarship Award from Dr. Judith Hennessy, Central Washington University.

Utrata’s book illuminates Russia’s “quiet revolution” in family life through examining the puzzle of how single motherhood, frequently seen as a social problem in other contexts, became taken for granted in Russia. The ambitious book uses the Russian case of growing single motherhood during the transition to capitalism to think theoretically and critically about assumptions in U.S.-focused scholarship on family change, poverty, and gender relations. Last year her book won the other coast’s major award, the Eastern Sociological Society’s Mirra Komarovsky Book Award.

Traditionally SOAN faculty presenting research, organizing sessions, or serving as discussants on panels gather together with student presenters over dinner. This year we had plenty of celebratory toasts and discussions, and we look forward to gathering together in future years with students presenting their original research.

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SOAN Sociology Professors and students gathered for dinner at PSA: Jason Struna (and adorable son!), Kylie Young, Lizzy Chao, Annie Krepack, Jennifer Utrata, Ben Lewin, John Parker (Arizona State), and Leonard Henderson.

Would you like to join us at next year’s PSA? Are you interested in learning more about the SOAN major and its opportunities for conducting, and presenting, independent research? Then be sure to drop by the SOAN Research Symposium, to be held this Friday, April 21st from 3:30-5:30 in the Tahoma Room…all are welcome, refreshments provided.

Congratulations to Allison Nasson, Prof. Utrata, and all of the students and faculty who participated in this year’s PSA!

SOAN Fall Mixer, this Thursday!

Hi all,

The SOAN department, in conjunction with the SOAN student club, will host its Fall mixer this Thursday. Learn more about the SOAN major and minor, hear about research opportunities, meet other students, ask about the courses offered in the Spring, and grab some free food. Here are the details:

What: SOAN Fall Mixer
Where: Tahoma Room
When: 4:00 PM to 5:00 PM, Thursday October 27

We hope to see you there!

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Peace Corps Conversation Today!

RPCV Panel Poster-2Are you considering U.S. Peace Corps service? Many of you may know that Puget Sound ranks #1 in the number of its graduates choosing to serve in the Peace Corps among small colleges. However, perhaps you have questions about whether this experiential learning (and serving) opportunity is right for you. If so, please plan to attend a panel with Puget Sound faculty who have served in the Peace Corps, including SOAN’s Jennifer Utrata, Associate Professor of Sociology. She was in the first group of volunteers to serve in formerly Soviet Central Asia (Uzbekistan) in the early 1990s.

What: Panel Discussion with Returned Peace Corps Volunteers
When: Tuesday, March 8, 5:30-6:30
Where: Howarth 101

Hope to see you there!