Colloque terminal de l’ANR EsCA

Le colloque terminal de l’ANR EsCA (Espaces de la culture chinoise en Afrique) s’est tenu du 9 au 11 septembre 2015 à l’INALCO (Paris) en association avec le 5e Congrès des études sur l’Asie et le Pacifique / GIS Asie ( Caroline Bodolec, Lucia Candelise et Frédéric Obringer, membres du CECMC, ont participé à ce colloque et présenté les contributions suivantes :

 Géopolitique du patrimoine; Perspectives croisées Chine-Afrique

  • Caroline Bodolec & Alexandra Galitzine-Loumpet (coord.), Saskia Cousin & Anne-Christine Trémon (discutantes)

Increasing State and local community interest in Intangible Cultural Heritage (ICH) highlights, as with other UNESCO programmes, the stakes that now crystallize different acceptations of the notion of heritage and the recomposition of related “tradition” and “modernity” paradigms. New players like the Popular Republic of China are emerging, and what might more generally be referred to as a “geopolitics of heritage” is taking form. Following the seminars held under the auspices of the ANR “Chinese Cultural Spaces in Africa” activities since 2012, this panel aims both to continue to share the (re)constructions, implications and recompositions of processes of patrimonialization in China, various African countries and their diasporic communities and to elaborate new models.

 A Model for Developing Countries? The Popular Republic of China’s Ambition

  • Caroline Bodolec (CNRS)

While China is the country with the largest number of items listed on UNESCO’s Intangible Cultural Heritage lists, it is also the most active country in positioning itself as a model and guide for developing countries. Opened in 2012, the Category 2 Centre in Beijing is mandated to offer ICH training and help candidates compile their proposals. This paper will observe China’s efforts to position itself in this field of competence and the different actions it is developing to become an indispensable link in conceiving ICH globally, and notably on the African continent.


 Définitions et enjeux de la «vraie médecine chinoise» en contextes chinois et africains

  • Françoise Bourdarias & Frédéric Obringer (coord.), Laurent Pordié (discutant)

The dissemination of Chinese medicine in the global context is contributing increasingly to the reconfiguration of local therapeutic fields. It tends to modify relations between the different forms of medicine and categories of practitioners, with the emergence of new modalities of collaboration and opposition, new syncretisms, and some times technical innovations.

In this panel, we will focus on the Chinese medical practices developing in African countries. Today, they occupy an ever-increasing place in therapeutic fields characterized by crumbling public health systems, policies for the patrimonialization of traditional practices, and finally by an uncontrolled development of the drug market. Alongside doctors trained in Chinese universities, healers and Chinese and African pharmacopoeia sellers claim to practice “traditional Chinese medicine.” These practitioners argue their legitimacy by referring to competing definitions of “real” Chinese medicine. In this specific context, the debate on the ties between theoretical and practical medical knowledge, between knowledge and techniques, and finally on the art of practitioners is developing. These phenomena cannot be understood without taking the transformations of Chinese medicine in China itself into account, where some challenge the institutional “Traditional Chinese Medicine” system, or, in other words, the standardized and bio-medicalized form of Chinese medicine promoted by the Chinese government since 1950.

The papers proposed by this panel’s China and Africa specialists should enable us to put into perspective the evolutions in therapeutic practices that can be observed in China and certain African countries, and to apprehend their economic, political and symbolic stakes in the specific context of each social configuration.

We thus hope to generate a debate on the forms of interdependency that connect local therapeutic fields today.

The Construction and Position of Chinese Medicine (zhongyi 中醫) in China and Other Regions of the World at the Start of the 21st Century

  • Frédéric Obringer (CNRS)

In November 2010, UNESCO added “Acupuncture and moxibustion of traditional Chinese medicine” to the Representative List of world Intangible Cultural Heritage. In China, from 2006-2014, four national lists of elements of intangible cultural heritage were drawn up, featuring several entries concerning “traditional medicine and pharmacopoeia”. I will analyze the stakes of this “patrimonialization”, looking at the construction in China since 1949 of a “Chinese medicine” destined to compete with “Western medicine”. I will examine this medicine’s paradoxical position today, which is at the same time under threat and in expansion, notably beyond the Chinese world.

Appropriation des produits médicaux venant de Chine au Cameroun 

  • Lucia Candelise & Antoine Kernen (coord.)

After a period of dissemination of so-called “traditional” Chinese medicine in Africa thanks to Chinese practitioners working in the public sector (hospitals), or setting up private practices in towns and proposing treatments such as acupuncture, moxibustion and Chinese pharmacopoeia, China’s contribution to the health sector is now characterized by diverse forms of appropriation on the part of local actors.

Surprisingly, practices qualifiable as “traditional” Chinese medicine only remain present in the form of the Chinese medical teams working in the country’s three hospitals, whereas private practices are tending to disappear. Several practices opened by the Chinese have now shut, and Chinese entrepreneurs’ visibility in the health sector has sharply declined.

If the Chinese origin of products or medical practices tends to be “camouflaged”, China’s influence nonetheless remains considerable. Many Cameroonian practitioners, for instance, use a Chinese-made diagnostic machine, locally known as “the scanner”, and several Chinese groups are highly active in the network marketing of dietary supplements.

This panel aims to present empirical studies that testify to the appropriation and “camouflaging” of Chinese practices and products in the Cameroonian health sector.

The Diagnostic Machine. From Faith to Science

  • Antoine Kernen (U. Lausanne) & Lucia Candelise (U. Genève and CECMC)

In a social context in which health issues are omnipresent, we have observed the arrival of medical practices relating to traditional Chinese medicine, but, above all, the recourse to technology and medication from China. We have particularly focused on the use of a diagnostic machine, technically known as a “quantum analyser”, but habitually referred to as “the scanner”, whose use is often – but not always – associated with the sale of food supplements. These technical remedies give a “Western” image, adopt supposedly scientific and modern terminology and references, and are not associated with notions of tradition or Chinese provenance. One of the Chinese companies that import this kind of product to Cameroon has indeed registered its headquarters in the United States to better mask its Chinese origin. The consumption of food supplements is a growing phenomenon in Cameroonian towns.

The “Chinese” diagnostic machine is used by certain Chinese therapists and doctors established in Cameroon, but we have also observed its reappropriation by African tradipractitioners. On simple contact with the patient via an electrode connected to a metal case connected to a computer, this machine offers a series of readings that diagnose the overall working of the human body.

Based on field observations recorded in Yaounde and Douala, we wish to propose several hypotheses concerning the social, symbolic and also therapeutic contributions of the diffusion and reappropriation of this equipment in health consultations and treatment in these two Cameroonian cities, outside the official circuits.

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