Developments in medicine and public health provide a key lens for understanding social change and continuity in China. This course explores how contested meanings of disease, health, and the body reflect larger struggles between tradition and modernity, the role of science and culture, and questions of national sovereignty in late imperial and modern China.
Beginning in the late imperial and Republican eras, the first part of the course will focus on the modernization of Chinese medicine, the development of public health infrastructures, and the medicalization of footbinding. In the second part of the course, we will investigate how the Communist Revolution transformed health, medicine and social life in China. We will examine patriotic health campaigns and the barefoot doctor program as a window on the collectivization and politicization of social life in Maoist China. In the final part of the course, we will examine new political and moral economies of health in the post-Mao era. Case studies include state control of reproduction, mental illness as an emerging disease category, and the intersections of social inequalities and infectious disease epidemics such as HIV/AIDS and SARS.
The course consists of lectures and discussions based on English publications in the history and social studies of medicine. Students will learn key research techniques by conducting an oral history interview on Chinese experiences of health seeking and illness.