Between Reality and Rhetoric: The Epistemic Schism in the Recognition of Traditional Medicine in International Law

There is little agreement about whether traditional medicine is in decline, why it may be in decline, or the future of traditional medicine in a globalizing framework that melds traditional and orthodox medicine. This article poses a more fundamental question: is there a juridical basis for the protection of traditional medicine in international law? The article refers to international treaty and quasi-treaty instruments as well as policies and structures of the World Health Organization that relate to traditional medicine and indigenous knowledge. There are ample instruments for the protection of traditional medicine as an aspect of indigenous or non-Western knowledge systems. Professor Chidi Ogumanam argues that these provisions have the weight of rhetoric when confronted with the epistemic conflict between Western biomedical and traditional medical systems. It is critical that this difference in epistemology be addressed in order to create policy that integrates traditional and orthodox medicine without subjugating necessarily traditional medicine. Such epistemic harmony in medical cultures has potential to optimizes the therapeutic potential of contemporary civilization.

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Chidi Oguamanam, “Between Reality and Rhetoric: The Epistemic Schism in the Recognition of Traditional Medicine in International Law” (2003) 16:1 St Thomas L Rev (2003) 59-108.

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