Keywords: East Africa; Chinese Medicine; Pluripotent Objects; Medical Pluralism.
The medical encounter has a long tradition of being analysed in terms of patient-practitioner relations but in medical anthropology this frame has been critiqued as too narrow from the earliest days of the field's inception. Early work on "medical pluralism" emphasized that decisions regarding treatment choice involved not only patient and practitioners but a wide range of different people and a multiplicity of medical authorities, and that patients presented with a plurality of different problems demanding medical attention. This article adds to this scenario the pluripotent "pot" as third player, or tertium quid (Latour 1988), thereby transposing the anthropologist's gaze from the patient-practitioner dyad onto an analytically relevant triad. By "pot" I mean the material aspects of the medical encounter. Yet rather than imbuing the pots themselves with agency, I call them "pluripotent" to highlight that through engaging their otherness and difference, pots can bring situation-specific dynamics into play.