International symposium "Doing ethnomedicine in the 21st century. Challenges and prospects", June 17-18

5 September 2022
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This symposium follows on from the creation of several university courses in ethnomedicine: the DU in ethnomedicine initiated at the University of La Réunion in 2011, the DU in ethnomedicine at Inalco, which welcomed its first students in 2020, the thematic course in ethnomedicine, opening in 2021 for students in all Inalco courses from L2 upwards, and the master's degree in "Languages, Health, Societies" currently being validated at Inalco.
Stand d'une herboriste de Lomé au Togo
Stand d'une herboriste de Lomé au Togo © CC BY-NC-ND 2.0 Stephan Gladieu / World Bank‎
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Event organized by the Centre d'études en sciences sociales sur les mondes africains, américains et asiatiques - CESSMA (Inalco-Université Paris Cité-IRD), in partnership with the Muséum national d'Histoire naturelle - MNHN, Université de La Réunion, Université de Maurice and CNRS.

Organizer: Laurence Pourchez, PR Inalco:

Friday June 17 and Saturday June 18, 2022 - PLC (Paris 13e) - Amphi 3 / and online (Zoom)
Inalco, 65, rue des Grands Moulins - 75013 Paris

Friday June 17 - 9:30-18:00
Saturday June 18 - 9:00-18:15

Making ethnomedicine in the 21st century. Issues and prospects

This symposium is a time for reflective pause on both a little-known and little-taught discipline, and aims to lay the new foundations necessary for the development of research that falls both within the framework of the anthropology of health but also from a necessarily multidisciplinary perspective.

What is the state of ethnomedicine? What are its scientific developments and challenges in the 21stcentury?

The term ethnomedicine was coined in the 1960s by ethnoscience researchers by analogy with other then-emerging terms and disciplines such as ethnobotany or ethnozoology (Walter, 1981). Serge Genest defines ethnomedicine as "the set of beliefs and practices relating to illness in every society" (1978: 24)

Ethnomedicine is, according to researchers, defined in two ways:
- In the social sciences, it is considered a branch of the anthropology of health. It is defined, in all societies, both Western and non-Western, as the study of traditional medicines and their internal logics in terms of therapeutic conduct, discourses produced and representations of the body, health, illness, birth, death and misfortune, including the relationship between health and the sacred or health and magic, as well as the study of therapists' knowledge, know-how and practices.

- It is frequently defined, by health professionals, as the synthesis that can be achieved between Western medicine and traditional medicines present in different (rather non-Western) countries.
The ethnomedical approach is in this case a holistic, multi-disciplinary approach that integrates ethnobotany, ethnology and ethnopharmacology.

The aim of this symposium is to combine the two approaches, and to consider the cross-views of established researchers, doctoral students, healthcare professionals and non-biomedical therapists, in order to obtain a synthetic vision of what ethnomedicine could be in the 21st century.

This two-day symposium is organized into four thematic sessions:

  • Session 1. Tradimedicine law and knowledge
  • Session 2. Ethnomedicine and ethnobotany
  • Session 3. A Western ethnomedicine
  • Session 4. Traditional medicines and traditional practitioners

Plenary lectures: Ameenah Gurib-Fakim, Alain Epelboin, Marie Christine Pouchelle, Laurence Pourchez

Genest, S, 1978, "Introduction à l'ethnomédecine. Essais de synthèse", Anthropologie et sociétés, 2.3: 5-28.
Walter, A., 1981, "Ethnomédecine et anthropologie médicale, bilans et perspectives", Cahiers de l'ORSTOM, vol XVIII, n°4: 405-414.

Scientific sponsorship: Ameenah Gurib Fakim (PR in Organic Chemistry, Former President of the Republic of Mauritius), Alain Epelboin (physician-anthropologist, CNRS)

Scientific committee:
Marie Fleury (MNHN), Antoine Leca (Université Aix-Marseille), Laurent Sermet (Université Aix-Marseille), Claude Marodon (Université de La Réunion, APLAMEDOM), François Taglioni (Université de La Réunion), Jean-François Humblot (Inalco), Laurence Pourchez (Inalco, CESSMA)

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Faire de l’ethnomédecine au 21ème siècle. Enjeux et perspectives - Affiche (1.43 MB, .pdf)

Faire de l’ethnomédecine au 21ème siècle. Enjeux et perspectives - Programme (158.92 KB, .pdf)

Faire de l’ethnomédecine au 21ème siècle. Enjeux et perspectives - résumés des interventions (650.91 KB, .pdf)