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Enacting a depoliticised alterity: law and traditional medicine at the World Health Organization

Ashworth, Michael, Cloatre, Emilie (2022) Enacting a depoliticised alterity: law and traditional medicine at the World Health Organization. International Journal of Law in Context, 18 (4). pp. 476-498. ISSN 1744-5523. (doi:10.1017/S1744552322000143) (KAR id:94109)

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This paper interrogates the depoliticising effects of a seemingly neutral regulatory drive at the heart of the World Health Organization (WHO)'s promotion of traditional medicine. Emerging at WHO in the late 1960s against a political backdrop of decolonisation and pan-Africanism, traditional medicine has continued to be promoted in subsequent decades, culminating in the latest global Traditional Medicine Strategy (2014 to 2023). Yet WHO's promotion and acceptance of traditional medicine have also become increasingly conditional upon its standardisation and regulation – something that appears fundamentally at odds with traditional medicine's heterogeneity. Drawing on insights from critical law and science and technology studies, we suggest that such a process at WHO has done more than simply disqualify the toxic and the dangerous. Rather, it has implicitly and explicitly marginalised and excluded those aspects of traditional medicine that deviate from scientific, biomedical ways of seeing, knowing and organising.

Item Type: Article
DOI/Identification number: 10.1017/S1744552322000143
Uncontrolled keywords: medical law, science and technology studies, sociology of standards, traditional medicine, regulation, global health
Subjects: H Social Sciences
K Law
Divisions: Divisions > Division for the Study of Law, Society and Social Justice > Kent Law School
Funders: Wellcome Trust (
Depositing User: Michael Ashworth
Date Deposited: 17 May 2022 16:28 UTC
Last Modified: 25 Nov 2022 12:25 UTC
Resource URI: (The current URI for this page, for reference purposes)
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Cloatre, Emilie:
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