Cornell University

Anthropology Colloquium: Tatiana Chudakova

Friday, September 15, 2017 at 3:00pm to 4:30pm

McGraw Hall, 215
740-750 University Ave, Ithaca, NY 14853, USA

Tatiana Chudakova is an Assistant Professor in the Department of Anthropology at Tufts University.

“Plant Work: Labor, Care, and Pharmacological Entanglements in Siberian Buddhist Medicine”

Abstract:  Tibetan medicine (sowa rigpa) uses compounded, multi-ingredient preparations as the basis for its pharmacology. These medicinal formulas tend to be fixed, both in canonical medical texts, and in lineage-based oral traditions of practice. In Siberia, where sowa rigpa is widely available without being fully officially recognized or regulated, following best pharmacological practices on sowa rigpa’s own terms is a complex and uncertain proposition for practitioners whose professional activities toggle between legality and illegality, and between competing understandings of efficacy and safety. The apparent rigidity of the primarily plant-based pharmacon on which practitioners rely to treat patients belies a variety of formal and informal strategies aimed at navigating the very concrete, situated impossibilities of following sowa rigpa’s classical prescriptions to the letter. This paper explores the emotional, intellectual, and logistical labors of assembling and maintaining the social geographies of sowa rigpa pharmacology, and the ways in which these practical strategies texture local conversations about economic and political precarity in contemporary Russia, as well as work to constantly reinscribe the socialist past into the present.


Her expertise:  Medical anthropology, science and technology, environment, ethnicity and indigeneity, nationalism, post-socialism. Geographic focus: Russia; North Asia.

Tatiana's research focuses on how postsocialist economies of health are shaped through the cultural politics of indigenous knowledge, the remaking of ethnoecologies, and the commodification of ethnic identities.  She combines these theoretical concerns with an interest in the afterlives of Soviet scientific and state-building projects in Russia and Inner Asia.

Tatiana is currently working on a book, provisionally titled Mixing Medicines: the Politics of Health in Postsocialist Siberia, which follows Russia's official medical sector's attempts to reinvent itself through state-led initiatives of "medical integration" that aim to recuperate indigenous therapeutic traditions associated with the state's ethnic and religious minorities. Based in Buryatia, a traditionally Buddhist region on the border of Russia and Mongolia known for its post-Soviet revival of "Tibetan medicine" and shamanism, the book traces the uneven terrains of encounter between indigenous healing, the state, and transnational medical flows.

Event Type



Anthropology, Sustainability


cascal, anthro-all, anthro-colloquium, cashum


Contact E-Mail

Contact Name

Liz Kirk

Contact Phone



Tatiana Chudakova

Speaker Affiliation

Tufts University


a reception will follow the talk

Open To

free and open to the public.

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