Mongolian Medicine Project

ARC Discovery Project: Mongolian Medicine: the transfer of different modes of medicinal knowledge.

Collaborating researchers: Prof. Narangoa; Prof. Wuliji; Dr Fijn; Prof. Cumming; Assoc. Prof. Lindskog.

Mongolian herding communities have developed unique forms of medical knowledge: taking the human family, the extended family of herd animals and the surrounding ecology as a basis. This knowledge across species is still practiced today and contributes to the health and wellbeing of local nomadic herding communities. Our research network investigates Mongolian medical practices in humans, animals and the environment, engaging with the concept of One Health. We investigate how Mongolian communities have perceived illness and disease over time and how Mongolian medicinal knowledge supplements biomedical knowledge. Through observations and interviews with knowledgeable elders and medical practitioners, in conjunction with text based studies, our interdisciplinary network explores how knowledge is conveyed across generations, how approaches have changed over time and the foundations for this knowledge.

We have three key areas of focus:

  • How knowledge of Mongolian medicine is transmitted within different local settings (for example, across herding communities, local clinics, Buddhist monasteries and hospitals).
  • Initiating scholarship on Mongolian medicine that breaks down species and geographic boundaries, across the borders of Mongolia and Inner Mongolia, China.
  • Bringing interdisciplinary researchers from the social sciences and the biosciences into collaboration with one another to investigate the Mongolian medical perspective and how Mongolian medicine may contribute toward the concept of One Health.

To fulfil these aims our network investigates three different forms of knowledge transfer practiced in different settings:

  1. Learning through word-of-mouth and practical trial-and-error: data collection on current practices of Mongolian medicine (across humans and domestic animals) in rural herding communities. How this knowledge has been transmitted, through interviews and oral histories. In addition to herding families, we also intend to focus on elders who have practiced medicine within their lifetime but are now living in settled areas.
  2. A more structured form of learning within Buddhist monasteries, which engages with both apprenticeship and ancient texts: interviews with practicing Buddhist medical practitioners or medicinal scholars in monasteries, inherited multispecies medical knowledge and its philosophical foundations. Within the old manuscripts, our focus will be on the integration of medicine with the more-than-human world.
  3. The institutional setting of the modern hospital: focussing on the combination of biomedicine and traditional forms of Mongolian medicine. In this context we will engage with current medical apprenticeship and how biomedicine and Mongolian medicine compare; whether practitioners integrate the forms of knowledge or separate into different spheres; and how multispecies knowledge (particularly in relation to medicinal plants in this context) has changed over time.