Hyemin Lee

Grant Type

Dissertation Fieldwork Grant

Institutional Affiliation

New York U.

Grant number

Gr. 10128

Approve Date

April 8, 2021

Project Title

Lee, Hyemin (New York U.) "Evidence-Branded Medicine: The Politics of Translation in Scientizing Traditional Korean Medicine"

This study investigates the production and translation of scientific evidence of the Traditional Korean Materia Medica’s (hanyak) medical efficacy, carried under the government-driven scientization project of Traditional Korean Medicine (TKM) in South Korea. The scientization project aims to translate TKM’s medical effectiveness into the language of science, with the ultimate aim of communicating and commodifying TKM’s value globally. This research concentrates on two traditional phyto- and zoo-medicinal ingredients, Korean ginseng (insam) and deer antler (nokyong), to examine three significant aspects of the government’s modern reform on TKM: Scientization, translation, and national branding of TKM. To this end, I plan to conduct ethnographic and archival fieldwork in South Korea and New Zealand, where Korean ginseng and deer antlers are respectively cultivated and subject to scientific analysis and standardization. Drawing on theories and methods of linguistic and medical anthropology, this research asks how scientific terminologies and language are used to brand traditional medicinal products as effective and communicate their value in national and global pharmaceutical markets. By providing ethnographic data on the use of language in creating and communicating scientific evidence, this study aims to address anthropological inquiries about science’s role in shaping social institutions, government, and global markets.