Michael Joiner

Unlike its marginal status in the United States, homeopathy figures prominently into the consumer healthcare market in France, where it functions simultaneously as a contestation of and complement to biomedicine.  At the center of this strategic ambiguity are the globules of homeopathic medicines, which are made to embody this ambiguity via the ideological, epistemic, and technological conditions of their material and symbolic production.  My research explores these conditions in order to answer the following question:  How are homeopathic remedies made to function as both a contestation of and complement to biomedical therapies?  Despite its increasing market presence in France and elsewhere, including the United States, homeopathy has largely failed to garner the attention of scholars of anthropology and the social studies of science.  My research fills this gap in our knowledge and sheds light on the epistemic, ideological, and technological dimensions of an "alternative" treatment regime.

The production of a homeopathic remedy entails continual material and symbolic transformation through the application of various technologies (e.g., social, material, literary) and forms of expertise (e.g., scientific, marketing, regulatory).  How this production process is shaped by evidence-based research, technologies and expertise, values and ideologies, national and international regulation, and a host of uncertainties is at the core of this inquiry.  My work engages domains of knowledge related to the social studies of science, the anthropology of medicine and pharmaceuticals, and the anthropology and sociology of business in order to produce an integrative analytic approach.

My research provides data that will furnish the social sciences with a much-needed tool to expand its traditional domains to include sites whose technologies, materials and methods both mirror and diverge from those of biomedicine and rethink a category of healthcare whose identity and activities situate it both inside and outside the traditional domains of medical anthropology.