Women and Unani Tibb: Targets and Transmitters of Plural Health Systems c.1910-1970.

Year of award: 2023


  • Dr Mobeen Hussain

    University of Sheffield, Ireland

Project summary

Indigenous medical systems, often termed alternative medicine, continue to be hugely popular in Asian societies. This project investigates how Indian women, primarily from Muslim communities, interacted with Unani Tibb via print culture and professional practice in Bhopal, Punjab, and northern India c.1910-1970. Unani Tibb is a pluralist medical system with Greco-Arabic origins most popular amongst Muslim populations in South Asia. The project offers a sustained focus on women as targets of reform and practitioners in their homes through mass print whilst also investigating how women were trained in Unani in a semi-professional capacity to become hakimas/tabibas (female practitioners). For the first time, it will ask how and why female practitioners navigated the largely male-dominated terrain of Unani Tibb and how such innovations contributed to wider Unani discourse and national public health policies on maternal care, sanitation, and reproductive medicine. This research will radically alter perceptions about historical and contemporary public health regimes in postcolonial South Asia by demonstrating how women's engagement with alternative medicine have dictated public health policy outcomes and markets. The research will result in two article publications, a second sole-authored monograph, and a collaborative special journal issue based on a conference organised as part of the project.