Absorbing Text: Internalizing Knowledge of Medicinals though Sensory Experience of Texts

Date and Time: 
Thursday, 5 May, 2011 - 17:15 to 17:30
GLOVER, Denise - University of Puget Sound

Based largely on my own experiences with Asian (particularly Himalayan-Tibetan in orientation) traditions of medicine and environment, I have been advocating for attention to historical, textual sources of ethnobiological knowledge. Currently I am interested in exploring the influence of sensorial experience—such as bodily movement, rhythm, and sound—in the process of textual interaction and memorization of knowledge about natural kinds among doctors of Tibetan medicine. Although medical texts are not only memorized by these doctors (they are studied in other ways), when it comes to knowledge of medicinal substances—their names, properties, potencies, attributes, etc.—memorization (largely by recitation) is a key interactive mode in which texts are processed. Thus texts in this way do not function as documentary repositories, from which one retrieves information when needed; they function as scores that one uses to internalize information. The connections between written, historical text, oral/aural learning, and knowledge of natural kinds are therefore considered and discussed.