Cambodians and Their Doctors

A Medical Anthropology of Colonial and Post-Colonial Cambodia

Jan Ovesen and Ing-Britt Trankell

Ovesen: Cambodians and Their Doctors
317 pp., illustrated
NIAS Monographs # 117
Available from NIAS Press worldwide

Hardback - 2010, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 057 7, £50.00
Paperback - 2010, Available
ISBN 978 87 7694 058 4, £25.00

Key points

  • Offers a unique blend of historical anthropology and contemporary ethnography.
  • A key text for scholars and students of Cambodia and Southeast Asia in general.
  • An important resource for development planners and aid workers in medical and related fields.

At face value, this book is about medicine in Cambodia over the last hundred years. At the same time, however, by using ‘medicine’ (in the sense of ideas, practices and institutions relating to health and illness) as a prism through which to view colonial and post-colonial Cambodian society more generally, it offers an historical and contemporary anthropology of the nation of Cambodia.

Rich in ethnographic detail derived from both contemporary anthropological fieldwork and colonial archival material, the study is an account of the simultaneous presence in Cambodia of two medical traditions: the modern, biomedical one first introduced by the French colonial power at the turn of the twentieth century, and the indigenous Khmer health cosmology. In their reliance on one or the other of the two traditions, to a large extent the Khmer people have been concerned to find efficient medical treatment that also adheres to social norms (not least the emphasis on the morality of social relations). This concern is also evident in the prevailing medical pluralism in Cambodia today.

The authors trace the interaction (and lack thereof) between these two traditions from the French colonial period via the political upheavals of the 1970s through to the present day. The result is more than a medical anthropology; this is a key text that also makes a significant contribution to the anthropological study of Cambodian society at large and will be an important resource for development planners and aid workers in medical and related fields.

Press news

  • Aug. 9 2019
    Carol Ann Boshier's book 'Mapping Cultural Nationalism: The Scholars of the Burma Research Society,1910-1935' has been shortlisted for the EuroSEAS Humanities Book Prize 2019. Congratulations!

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