Sabine Glatz, Bakk.phil. MA

University of Westminster, Faculty of Science and Technology

PhD Project

Elucidating the emergent interface between Systems biology and Chinese medicine.

Since the early 2000s we can observe a most interesting phenomenon: the emergence of an articulation between ‘Chinese medicine’ (CM), which has its roots in the ancient past, and ‘systems biology’ (SB), which claims to be at the forefront of contemporary science, in both the West and China. Although the boundaries between Chinese and Western medicine have always been permeable the emergence of this new articulation appears to be distinctly different. Previously, science was seen as a model for modernisation within the Chinese medical tradition and Chinese medicine at best an assemblage of empirically useful tools by bioscientists. Suddenly, however, systems biologists talk about hot and cold pathogenic factors and CM practitioners take blood samples from their patients. How did this happen and what does it mean? 
 
Answering these questions is the aim of my PhD research. To this end, I survey the literature, and then follow authors of research papers to their laboratories and workplaces in Europe and in China to conduct participant observations and semi-structured interviews. In this manner, I aspire to draw out how what I call the emergent interface between Chinese medicine and systems biology was and still is created, and what scientists, researchers, and CM practitioners seek to achieve in doing so. Besides historical and ethnographic reconstruction I thereby hope to show up risks and opportunities that relate to gains and losses involved in this process, results that may, in turn, flow back into the process of emergence itself. 

The idea of improving wellbeing through medical and health care systems through learning and adopting drugs or practises from traditional medicine systems inspired me to undertake this research project. Additionally, I am interested in relationships that build this interface as well as reasons and expectations of both well-established practises.

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