An assemblage of everyday technologies in the practice of western herbal medicine - a photo essay


  • Nina Nissen independent researcher (anthropologist)



Authoritative knowledge, complementary and alternative medicine, medical diversity, medical legitimacy, technologies, UK


Small, mundane technologies, such as stethoscopes, medicinal bottles, labels, cleaning and dispensing equipment, are integral to the practice of western herbal medicine (WHM) in the UK. A focus on such technologies reveals the dynamic character and porousness of medical systems and allows us to identify cultural interactions. In this photo essay, based on long-term anthropological research, I explore an assemblage of everyday technologies used by WHM practitioners and the ways in which these technologies contribute to shaping diagnostic stories, to performing (bio)medical legitimacy and invoking herbal traditions. The biomedical, herbal and domestic technologies-in-use come into view as vibrant and dynamic objects with highly contingent meanings and identities. Their absorption into this non-biomedical therapy supports the performance of (bio)medical legitimacy, authority, tradition and professionalism, while the use of everyday domestic objects may signal female-coded practices of care. This demonstrates the adaptability of a medical practice situated at the margin of mainstream healthcare and subject to ongoing technological and ideological influence. The strategic integration of this assemblage of everyday technologies into WHM contributes, I suggest, to evoking a competent, trustworthy and time-honoured medical practice, which is simultaneously inscribed with multiple tensions, ambiguities and contestations.


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How to Cite

Nissen, N. (2022). An assemblage of everyday technologies in the practice of western herbal medicine - a photo essay. Outlines. Critical Practice Studies, 23(1), 50–73.