Well, I had a nice, but tiring, time at the HSS meeting in rainy Vancouver last weekend.  I’ll give a brief rundown on some notable talks and conversations.

Friday

19th and 20th Century Traditions:  Negotiating Medicine in Pre-Colonial, Colonial and Post-Colonial Vietnam

This session was fascinating though poorly attended.  Michele Thompson’s paper on connections between Chinese and Vietnamese medicine, a story told through linguistic changes, lost me a bit (the linguistic parts, certainly), but Thompson made very fluent connections between her paper and the others.  Laurence Monnais, spoke on the way colonial encounters between the French and Vietnamese led to the invention of the category ‘traditional medicine.’  She discussed the way that colonial thinking on Vietnamese medicine changed from the late 19th C , where it was condemned as quackery, to a 1930s ‘scientific salvaging operation,’ where Vietnamese medicine was marginalized and potential useful elements were appropriated by colonial doctors.  Ayo Wahlberg commented on the recent so-called revival of Vietnamese medicine.  Though I’m an Americanist, these papers had much to say about the way folk, traditional and popular medicines are characterized by regulars in a number of cultures.  The panelists graciously fielded questions from a vocal gentleman who wanted to discuss the papers in terms of modern medical practice.

 Medicine and the Modern City

I organized this session, with Rachel Ponce from Chicago, and I think it went extremely well.  I’d rather not say anything more at the moment.