Mapping knowledge domains of non-biomedical modalities: A large-scale co-word analysis of literature 1987-2017.


School of Historical and Philosophical Studies, University of Melbourne, Parkville, VIC, 3010, Australia. Electronic address: [Email]


This paper presents a systematic mapping of the disparate literature on non-biomedical therapeutic modalities using co-word analysis. Non-biomedical modalities are defined in this paper as therapeutic modalities that exist in separation, but not isolation from, biomedicine. Bibliometric visualisation based on co-word analysis, a method sensitive to the configuration of socio-cognitive networks of knowledge, is employed to create a semantic topography of thirty years' literature from across different disciplines. The proliferation of terminologies to describe non-biomedical modalities from different disciplines raises important issues about the structure of scholarly knowledge about this area, particularly with regards to domains of meaning and conceptual spaces that lay dormant within this discourse. Drawing from a bibliographic dataset of 17,163 peer-reviewed publications written in English between 1987 and 2017 (retrieved on September 31, 2018), this paper presents a rigorous map with which to navigate the highly complex and interdisciplinary literature on non-biomedical knowledge and practices. Arguing that knowledge production about non-biomedical modalities in scholarly literature resembles that of problematic networks of interest, this paper substantiates the separation from biomedicine that contradistinguishes non-biomedical modalities. It does so by analysing the semantic trajectories of the most widely used terminologies in this domain, namely traditional medicine, alternative medicine, herbal medicine, and unclassified drug. Although all equally problematic, these contested terminologies are unlikely to replace one another in any form of paradigmatic shift in the foreseeable future. Their persisting conceptual usefulness is anchored in their own respective clusters of meaning, and researchers wishing to engage in the production of knowledge in this domain should be mindful of the pitfalls associated with their terminology use. Non-biomedical modalities as a term might be better equipped to capture the diversity as well as the historical continuities and discontinuities of therapeutic traditions and practices at the margin of mainstream scientific medicine.


Alternative medicine,Co-word analysis,Complementary medicine,Herbal medicine,Non-biomedical modalities,Systematic review,Traditional medicine,Unclassified drug,

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