Capturing Quicksilver: The Position, Power, and Plasticity of Chinese Medicine in Singapore

In modern Singapore, the state privileges biomedicine in its healthcare system and non-biomedical practices are regarded as subordinate alternatives. Even so, alternative medicine remains highly popular among the residents of Singapore. Capturing Quicksilver: The Position, Power, and Plasticity of Chinese medicine in Singapore investigates this issue in-depth and seeks to understand and explain the enduring popularity of a medical tradition that is ethnically inherited but politically marginalised.

The book begins with the political and social history of Singapore, and goes on to cover policies around the management of Chinese medicine set against a multicultural heritage. The author notes that Chinese medicine is not only a popular alternative medical practice; it is also a cultural mediator for many Chinese people in Singapore. Based on extensive fieldwork and observations, the author shows how people express their experiences of Chinese medicine, justify their use and assimilate the idea of self-care, a core concept in Chinese medicine, into their lifestyle.

The author unpacks the complexity of practicing Chinese medicine in gradual layers, from the intersection with policies and regulations at the macro level and embodied everyday life at the micro level. She shows that Chinese medicine is hybrid, fluid and permeable and is shaped by Singapore’s post-colonial history, multiracial national characteristics, economic strategies, as well as individualised conceptions of knowledge and authority among Singaporeans.

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