Cerulli Writes on South Asian Medicine – Hobart and William Smith Colleges \
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Cerulli Writes on South Asian Medicine

Assistant Professor of Religious Studies Anthony Cerulli and two colleagues from the University of Vienna have announced the release of their newly published book, “Medical Texts and Manuscripts in Indian Cultural History” (July 2013). Cerulli, who is one of the book’s co-editors, also authored the chapter, “The Joy of Life: Medicine, Politics, and Religion.”

The book, published by New Delhi-based Manohar Publishers, aims to advance modern knowledge of Ayurveda while demonstrating a range of original methodologies to extend the understanding of Ayurveda and Siddha, two traditional medicines of South Asia. The work also addresses the unique problems presented by the modern reception of Sanskrit medical works after many centuries of manuscript transmission.

A group of internationally-known scholars and historians of medicine and Indian culture conducted the research for the book, including members of the Classical Ayurvedic Texts Society of which Cerulli is a member. The book’s co-editors include Dominik Wujastyk and Karin Preisendanz, both faculty of philosophical and cultural studies at Vienna.

“When we conceived the present volume, we wanted to pull together essays that offer methodological innovations, critiquing classic and contemporary methods in the study of Indian medicine; the essays in the book thus present novel ways to interpret India’s multifaceted medical landscape in view of the intersection of medicine and other aspects of Indian society, such as religion, politics, and the economy,” Cerulli says.

He says the chapter that he wrote for the book explores the contributions of medicine to modern Indian cultural history, including the role of storytelling, and in particular, dramatic theater as a way of transmitting medical knowledge to a non-medically trained audience.

“I explore an early-18th century allegory, The Joy of Life, which was composed in Sanskrit and Prakrit for live performance at a temple festival in Tamilnadu,” Cerulli says. “Because the author presents indigenous Indian medicines (especially Ayurveda and Siddha) as central to human flourishing and the so-called good life, a close reading of the allegory suggests several ways in which Indian medical traditions were crucial to the formation of Indian culture, social construction, and so on. Also, since the play was written in a classical literary style, it furthermore begs important questions about the ways in which scientific or technological knowledge systems contributed to Indian aesthetics, entertainment, and religious discourses in Indian cultural history.”

Cerulli joined the faculty at the Colleges in 2008. He received a Ph.D. from the University of Chicago, M.A. from Yale University, and B.A. from Loyola University of Chicago. Cerulli has been a fellow of the National Endowment for the Humanities and was recently a visiting scholar at the Institut d’études avancées de Paris. He is a former Fulbright fellow and fellow of the American Council of Learned Societies. In spring 2012, he was the Directeur d’études (invité) at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales de Paris and in summer 2012 he received a Social Science Research Council research award. Cerulli is also the author of the recently published book, “Somatic Lessons: Narrating Patienthood and Illness in Indian Medical Literature” (2012).

Cerulli’s teaching and research specializations include the history of religions in India and South Asia and the pre-Islamic history of Iran. His current research project explores the history of medical education in late-colonial and contemporary south India.