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Med Anthropol. 2009 Jul;28(3):235-67. doi: 10.1080/01459740903070865.

Untouchable healing: a Dalit Ayurvedic doctor from Nepal suffers his country's ills.

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Department of Anthropology, Florida Atlantic University, Boca Raton, FL 33431-0991, USA.


Ayurvedic medicine thrives in Nepal. Even so, barriers of untouchability that have long prevented Dalits from establishing equal relationships with upper castes have made medical education out of reach for them. Hence, nearly all Ayurvedic practitioners are high caste men. Forty years ago, an "untouchable" man from the Himalayan foothills with a thirst for knowledge about Ayurveda traveled south into India where he changed his caste and "became" a Brahman for 14 years as he studied the theory and practice of Ayurvedic medicine in a Haridwar college. Rasaliji's life story, recorded initially in 2000 and continued through 2007-2008, encompasses a period of rapid modernization that spawned a state health policy promoting biomedicine, a proliferation of pharmaceutical drugs, and a national election that swept the Communist Party of Nepal-Maoist into power and saw an unprecedented 9 percent Dalits elected to the Constituent Assembly. This article presents Rasaliji's current concerns with the state of medicine and social justice in Nepal.

[Indexed for MEDLINE]

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