Rebel Medicine: The Politicisation of Acupuncture in the Philippines

This qualitative research traces the politicisation of the use of acupuncture in the Philippines (a transfer of a medical practice independent of a migration of people) to a revolutionary group via semi-structured interviews, participant observation, and archival research. In 1969, a ‘guerrilla army’ known as the New People's Army (NPA) was formed in the rural Philippines, during a period of martial law at the twilight of the Marcos administration. Since this time, anyone believed to have any affiliation with the NPA was routinely arrested, tortured, detained, and/or killed. The NPA became a significant national movement particularly through forging bonds with the rural poor. Healthcare was a primary concern of the NPA who used their own ‘medics’ trained in acupuncture and the use of local herbal medicines. The NPA used acupuncture as a means to recruit new NPA members in rural communities. Informants explained that recruitment was initiated through free acupuncture treatments and later through trainings. Thereafter, the practice of acupuncture became intensely politicized in the Philippines. In fact, the mere presence of an acupuncture needle was considered sufficient evidence that one was affiliated with the NPA. Furthermore, the fact that community level organizing was involved, in and of itself, constituted a threat to the government. Acupuncture was also politicized for its provision of cost-effective accessible healthcare for all, and as a rejection of profit-driven healthcare.

ArgO-EMR Seminars Michaelmas 2022

Wednesdays at 5pm (Weeks 3, 5, 7, 8)

On Teams and also taking place in person in the Pauling Centre, 58a Banbury Road

Acupuncture in Practice

Convened by Elisabeth Hsu