India's vast religious, ethnic, urban/rural, socioeconomic, and political landscapes set a fascinating and deeply entangled context for different schools of medical practice and different ways of being. How does one seek internal and external harmony in this massive democratic state? What (or who) determines the standards for health and disease? How does this change the ways in which Indians experience their own bodies?
This film introduces medical care in northwest India through the perspective of three doctors working to integrate ayurvedic medicine with biomedicine. While navigating among different theoretical mappings of the body, the doctors also confront sociopolitical challenges that prevent communication among existing medical systems in India.
Produced in collaboration with the International Association for the Study of Traditional Medicine (IASTAM)
Dr. Narendra Bhatt
Dr. R. B. Gogate
Dr. Swati Mohite
Filmed and Edited by Lan Angela Li, MIT
Note on the title: While "The Vital Other" is a direct reference to complementary and alterative medicine, in this case it is meant to be ironic and a play on words. "Vital" is intended to be taken literally in that thinking about integration as a vital component in medical system. Meanwhile, "Other" can be referenced in the anthropological sense of the exotic other, something unlike what one is familiar with; but in this case, "other" is used in the sense of re-thinking expectations of alternative medicine in terms of medical integration to avoid the polarization of ayurveda and biomedicine. So together, "vital other" is an indication of what we are missing in medicine, and making familiar the unfamiliar: integration.
Another meaning of "vital other" is supposed to reference Dr. Narendra Bhatt's quote of why Ayurveda had a bad reputation--if we do not properly understand the fundamental theories of Ayurveda and take the route of the vital others, it will do harm to the system. So this is again ironic in that the title uses the same words that it warns the audience to avoid.
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