Adele E. Clarke
Thoughts on Biomedicalization
in Its Transnational Travels
n 1968 Owsei Temkin, director of the Institute of the
of Medicine at Johns Hopkins, warned that
“the tradition of the Western approach to the history of
medicine is too narrow a basis for the historical compre-
hension of medicine as it is developing in our era.” The
Western or scientific medicine to which he had devoted
so much study was, in his view, changing rapidly into
global medicine. “If world health is a common concern,”
he concluded, “history [and social science] focused
upon global medicine is a legitimate aim” (Temkin 1968,
362, 365, 368).1 Sustaining Temkin’s concerns forty years
later, this brief epilogue worries about and articulates
some aspects of how the framework of biomedicaliza-
tion theory might contribute to such projects.2
One of our goals for this volume is to provoke con-
tinued empirical studies of the rise of medicine, medi-
calization, and biomedicalization, both as phenomena
in and of themselves and in relation to particular drugs,
technologies, procedures, practices, and biocapital.
Our focus has been almost exclusively on the U.S. case,
holding the nation- state relatively constant as the case
studies examined different instantiations of biomedical-
ization (see discussion in the introduction). But both
“things medical” (my generic term) and the dynamics of
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