Results of the Ratimed project

Health authorities worldwide are struggling to evaluate, regulate and control ever-increasing amounts of “traditional medicines” sold and consumed in their countries. At the same time, those involved in the traditional pharmaceutical industry often lack a clear vision of how this industry is unfolding and functioning on a larger scale.


The Ratimed project is therefore designed to deliver the empirical data and critical analyses needed by policy-makers and stakeholders to better understand the emerging transnational Sowa Rigpa industry and market.

Simultaneously, it contributes to cutting-edge scholarship on a new type of pharmaceutical assemblage that reconfigures biological, cultural, political and economic ontologies in contemporary Asia.


Our approach is collaborative. This project was designed in dialogue with Sowa Rigpa experts and stakeholders in all four countries, and will remain open to suggestions from the people we work with. In order to ensure a two-way flow of knowledge, we will share and discuss the results through a variety of media and platforms, including academic publications, conferences and workshops, public media, and this website.

Asian Medical Industries

Conference Panel on Contemporary Perspectives on Traditional Pharmaceuticals


9th International Congress on Traditional Asian Medicines (ICTAM IX) Kiel, 6-12 August 2017


Panel organizers:  Stephan Kloos & Calum Blaikie
Institute for Social Anthropology, Austrian Academy of Sciences


Asian medical systems are increasingly transforming into Asian medical industries. Sowa Rigpa, TCM, Ayurveda, Unani, Japanese Kampo and Korean medicines are now mass-produced commodities on the global market, and are recognized in their countries of origin as valuable economic and healthcare resources. Indeed, traditional pharmaceuticals now constitute an integral part of Asia’s knowledge products industry and its growing economic power, while their potential contribution to Global Health is starting to be recognized. There is a clear need for scholarly work in this field to go beyond Charles Leslie’s seminal framework of “Asian medical systems” in order to productively engage with Asian medical industries as complex, emergent and transnational phenomena.

This panel explicitly focuses on the emergent dimensions of traditional pharmaceutical industries in contemporary Asia. As a platform for a comparative approach and perspective on these industries, the panel aims to draw out and analyze shared and contrasting trends and developments in order to shed light on the phenomenon as a whole. How are people, technologies, materia medica, values, financial resources, policies and different forms of knowledge being assembled in new ways to produce traditional Asian pharmaceuticals? How are traditions reinvented, ownership renegotiated, policies remade, and ingredients reformulated as Asian medical systems are transformed into medical industries? What implications do these processes hold for public and private healthcare, governments, industry owners and workers, institutions, practitioners and patients within and across various Asian contexts?

Kloos 2017. Ludwig-Maximilians-Universität München: Traditionelle Mongolische Medizin: Kontinuität und Wandel in globalem Kontext. Invited lecture, June 26, Munich, Germany


Kloos 2017. Transfigurationen. Medical Anthropology Conference, University of Basel: Von Medizinsystemen zu Medizinindustrien: Medizinanthropologische Transfigurationen traditioneller asiatischer Medizin. Conf. paper, Feb 17, Basel, Switzerland


Madhavan 2017. Cermes3, INSERM: ERC AdvGrant GlobHealth Workshop, Property rights and Pharmaceutical Regulations in a Pluralistic State: A Global Public Good (GPG) Perspective on Sowa-Rigpa in India. Invited paper, Jan 31, Paris, France


Kloos 2016. British Academy & Royal Anthropological Institute: Anthropology in Austria Day, From Buddhist Deities to the Spirit of Capitalism: Tibetan Medicine and the Remaking of Inner Asia. Invited paper, Nov 8, London, UK