Medicine and Illness at the Crossroads: Negotiating the Modernity of Medical Knowledge and Practices in Modern China

Conference: AAS-in-Asia2020 (AAS-in-Asia2020)
Title: Medicine and Illness at the Crossroads: Negotiating the Modernity of Medical Knowledge and Practices in Modern China
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Authors:
Yumeng Wang, Sun Yat-Sen University, China (organizer, presenter)
Yushuang Zheng, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (chair, presenter)
Yan Lai, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, Hong Kong (presenter)
Qing Cai, Sichuan University, China (presenter)
Siyi Li, The Chinese University of Hong Kong, China (presenter)
Christine Yi Lai Luk, Tsinghua University, China (discussant)

Abstract:

The dichotomies between modern and traditional, progressive and conservative, Western and Chinese have profoundly shaped the scholarly interpretations of medical development in modern China. Many scholars fall into reductionism when examining the medical modernity and assume the enlightened intellectuals as its firm defender. This panel seeks to challenge such stereotypes and shed new light on a more complicated and multifaceted medical scene produced in the plural interactions among multiple powers when China was faced with its modern transition at a crossroads.

This panel brings together scholars who work at the transdisciplinary crossroads of history, literature, anthropology, and culture studies. Holding a dialogue among these fields of study, the panel covers a wide range of topics: the changing attitudes to animal feces preparations from the nineteenth to the twentieth century (Lai), the shaping of modern fetal education from late Qing to Republican China (Cai), the making of forensic modernity in the 1930s (Zheng), the legendary incident of nephrectomy of the scholar Liang Ch’i-ch’ao in 1926 (Wang), and the metaphor of illness in the fictions on railway journey in Republican China (Li).

The papers all show how the transformations in medicine and illnesses have constituted an important vehicle for the shaping of modern states/subjects. By digging into such shaping processes, the panel aims to rethink how medicine/illness as an analytical concept has transformed and re-structured Chinese society. The correlations between medicine and modernity have never developed in one direction, and this panel contributes to disentangling those sophisticated and complicated correlations.