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Jointly organised with Jan van der Greef (University of Leiden) & Bridie Andrews Minehan (Bentley University)

“These days doctors when providing therapy select a couple of medicines, write down a regimen for taking them, hand it over, and that is that. Before the ancients treated patients, they became familiar with the cycles of yin and yang and of time, and with the exhalations of qi from mountain, forest, river, and marsh. They discerned the patient’s age, body weight, social status, style of life, disposition, likes, feelings, and vigor. In accord with what was appropriate to these characteristics, and avoiding what was not, they chose among drugs, moxa, acupuncture, lancing with the stone needle, decoctions, and extracts. They straightened out old habits and manipulated patterns of emotions. Feeling their way, missing no opportunity and constantly adapting, in their reasoning there was not a hair-breadth’s gap. They would go on to regulate the patient’s dress, rationalize his diet, change his living habits, and follow the transformations of his emotions, sometimes treating him according to environmental factors, sometimes according to individual factors.” Shen Kuo 沈括 (12th century)

Friday 10 June, 2011: Key Note Lectures

Venue: Large Lecture Theatre, 115 New Cavendish Street, London

The music of life: a window between West and East? (Denis Noble, Prof. emeritus, Oxford University) 

Efficacy and Evidence (Nathan Sivin, Prof. emeritus, University of Pennsylvania)

A Biology Built Out of Verbs? Systems Biology and Health (Dr. Jane Calvert, University of Edinburgh)

On the Notion of Qi 氣 In Ancient Chinese Philosophy (Dr. Hans-Georg Moeller, University of Cork)


Saturday 11 June, 2011: Panelists/Speakers

Venue: The Pavillion, 115 New Cavendish Street, London

Prof. Bridie Andrews, Department of History, Bentley University | Dr. Jane Calvert, RCUK Academic Fellow, University of Edinburgh | Suzanne Chochrane, School of Biomedical & Health Sciences, University of Western Sydney | Andrew Flower PhD, Department of Primary Medical Care, University of Southampton | Professor TJ Hinrichs, Department of History, Cornell University | Dr. Hugh MacPherson, Department of `Health Sciences, University of York | Dr. Hans-Georg Moeller, Department of Philosophy , University College Cork | Prof. Denis Noble, CBE FRS FRCP, Oxford University (emeritus) | Prof. Andrew Pickering, Sociology, University of Exeter & Kyung Hee University, Seoul | Dr. Volker Scheid, EASTmedicine Research Centre, University of Westminster | Dr. Jan Schroer, Sino-Dutch Centre for Personalised Medicine, University of Leiden | Prof. Nathan Sivin, History and Sociology of Science, University of Pennsylvania (emeritus) | Dr. phil. Lena Springer, Department of East Asian Studies, University of Vienna | Michael Stanley-Baker, Wellcome Trust Centre for the History of Medicine,University College London | Prof. Jan van der Greef, Director Sino-Dutch Centre for Personalised Medicine, University of Leiden | Dr. Roel van Wijk, Sino-Dutch Centre for Personalised Medicine, University of Leiden | Professor Claudia Witt, Institute for Social Medicine, Charité University Medical Center, Berlin | Prof. Yi-Li Wu, Department of History, Albion College | Dr Qihe Xu, Department of Renal Medicine, King’s College

University of Westminster
115 New Cavendish Street
London, UK
W1W 6UW

Costs: £25 per day / students £15 per day

Personalised medicine - the delivery of health care solutions targeted to the exact biological state of an individual at a given moment in time - is seen by many researchers as one of the great challenges for 21st century medicine. The development of such personalised health care solutions is closely tied, in turn, to the emergence of new disciplines such as systems biology, attempts to describe and model the integrated action of regulatory networks at many levels of biological organization from the subcellular through cell, tissue and organ right up to the whole organism.

Viewed from a wider historical perspective the goal of a personalised approach to medical care is not entirely new and certainly not modern. Physicians in China and East Asia, for instance, have pursued similar visions for two millennia. Their quest was informed by very different concepts, however, such as, for instance qi, the stuff in which and through which everything happens; the resonances (ying) between the human microcosm and the natural world; coherence (li), as the organising principle of the world and of moral human agency within it; the intending understanding (yi) that was, by definition, beyond words but that ensured the effectiveness of medical practice; and the changes and transformations (bian hua) that constituted the natural state of the world and the target of all medical practice.

Not surprisingly, perhaps, 21st century systems science and traditional East Asian medicines have begun to discover and even embrace each other. Our conference & workshop is an attempt to examine this emergent interface from an interdisciplinary perspective. To this end we will bring together researchers and scholars from the biosciences, East Asian studies, medical history, anthropology, philosophy and science studies in a collegiate atmosphere geared towards enabling mutual learning, reflection and debate. We suggest to focus this exchange on three broadly conceived topics:

  • Ontology/Cosmology: What are the problems to which systems biology promises to deliver answers? What conceptions of life and the world underpin the framing of research questions and why have they become important? How do these relate to and differ from those explored by physicians working within the Asian medical traditions.
  • Epistemes and Epistemic Virtues: What institutions, infrastructures, networks, moral visions and labour underpin the quest for personalised medicine at different places and times.
  • Medical Practice: How do the tensions between medicine as techne and practice play out in the visions of personalised medicine that inform practitioners in both biomedicine and physicians working within the East Asian medical traditions.

We do not have any pre-determined goals beyond exploring the benefits that might accrue to individual researchers/research teams from such dialogue and perhaps discuss one or two concrete research projects.

EASTmedicine has considerable experience in organising this kind of exploratory event. In 2007 and 2009, we organised two workshops bringing together clinical researchers, practitioners, anthropologists and historians to discuss the integration of East Asian medicines into contemporary health care. In 2010, we brought together historians and educators to explore how the medical humanities might be made relevant to the teaching of Chinese medicine in UK universities. The present workshop is the fourth event in this series. It is funded by an Arts and Humanities Research Council (AHRC) Networking Grant and supported by the University of Westminster and the International Association for the Study of Asian Medicines (IASTAM).