Languages of healing : Theories, practice and terminology within Eastern Turki medicine in the late 19th and early 20th centuries

Sammanfattning: Medical practices in Eastern Turkestan consisted of a number of components that are not easily identifiable, constituting a highly pluralistic medical field defined by several overlapping traditions, of which Graeco-Islamic medicine played one part while the others, including Western medicine, also played important and/or complementary roles. It can be defined as a diverse but still coherent medical tradition closely related to that of adjacent societies, especially Turkic and Muslim, but also shaped by its own specific historical and cultural context. Although there is plenty of source material available in the form of locally produced medical manuscripts, this field, especially with regard to Turkic sources, remains under-researched. This thesis examines how illness and health was understood and managed in Eastern Turkestan in the late 19th and early 20th centuries. In order to reach a wider understanding of the field, it uses an interdisciplinary approach based on philological and Turkological tradition, as well as other disciplines such as medical anthropology. To obtain a broad interpretation, the research has been conducted using a combination of local sources, such as medical manuscripts and oral literature, and Western documentation in the form of travelogues and missionary reports. A closer examination reveals that the Eastern Turki medical manuscripts researched in this thesis are of a heterogeneous character in terms of both scope and content. Some are explicitly devoted to medicine, while others are of a more mixed nature, containing elements of poetry and aspects we can also find in folklore and local history. Many of the primary sources consulted mention personages connected to Greek philosophy and history, alongside famous personages within Muslim lore. There are also frequent references to religious matters, leading to the conclusion that all of these components constituted important elements of Turki medical lore. Besides discussing the characteristics of the texts on a broad level, the thesis contains a large section dedicated to materia medica discussing commonly used products in medicines, their preparation and usage. The thesis also discusses the wide range of medical professionals present in the area and the various types of treatment they offered. The Eastern Turki material demonstrates that people in Eastern Turkestan resorted to different strategies in their health-enhancing endeavors. A multitude of approaches existed to prevent illness, uncover its cause, and treat it most effectively. While some therapies in Eastern Turkestan were largely based on humoral concepts, including dietary prescriptions, massage, bloodletting, venesection, diuresis and so forth, great emphasis was also placed on the efficacy of the Qur’an, the utilization of different prayers and amulets, soothsaying and pilgrimage to holy shrines.

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