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Research Students - Social Anthropology  
Elizabeth Elliott  

Year of start: 2011
Subject: Medical Anthropology

Research Topic/ Provisional Dissertation Title

A Medical Landscape in Laos


David Napier (Anthropology)
Therese Hesketh (Institute of Child Health)


This thesis will examine medical practice in a semi-rural village in Laos, using the concepts of embodied communities (Hughes-Freeland: 2008), medical landscapes (Hsu:2008) and the creation of continuity through ritual (Evans: 1998). By mapping a contemporary medical landscape of a lowland village close to a provincial Traditional Medicine Station, this research will establish whether and why ‘traditional’ medicine is being preserved in Laos, taking into consideration the role of political and religious factors in a post-socialist state; and if so, the implications of this case study for a global discussion of ‘traditional’ medicine. Specifically, it shall examine the articulation of various healing modalities within a state sponsored Traditional Medicine Research Centre; the Wat, where local healthcare is provided in the form of Theravada Buddhist ideas of harmony, balance and time, and thirdly, the village itself where spirit rituals are performed by maw (healers) and various forms of domestic medicine are practiced within families. This links to my previous work on localised antimalarial herbal medicines, and my experience of studying and practicing Chinese Medicine and Thai Massage.

Research interests

  • East & South-East Asian Traditional Medicine
  • Malaria/localised medicine
  • Anthropology of the body and embodiment
  • Touch, vision, blindness

Academic Background/Education

2011: MSc Medical Anthropology, University of Oxford

2008: BSc (Hons) Traditional Chinese Medicine, Middlesex University; BM Traditional Chinese Medicine, Beijing University of Chinese Medicine. Dissertation: The use of Qinghao (A.Annua) in the treatment of malaria.

2003-present: Clinical experience of acupuncture, massage, herbal medicine: Beijing, China; Kunming, China; Chiang Mai, Thailand; Asante Academy of Chinese Medicine, London; Archway and Whittington Hospitals, London; own practice, Oxford.

Honours and Awards

2011: Distinction for MSc Dissertation, University of Oxford: Tactile Vision: Against an Essentialised Sensory Anthropology


Currently self- funded

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