China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Medical emergencies create a void of signification, a rupture, and their metaphorical meanings imbue and politicize the social realm. Hu Fayuan, a Chinese novelist, holds that epidemics know no borders, as they are more political than medical events. This panel continues this statement and holds that epidemics and pandemics determine not only medical, but political, social and cultural large-scale reforms and impact how race, class and gender are constructed beyond the end of medical emergencies. They demand highly interdisciplinary methodologies to illuminate the interconnected cultural, aesthetic, social, political and medical relations across history and intellectual and national borders. This panel brings together experts from three major academic fields (anthropology, literature, history) to analyze the epistemological ruptures in the systemic and symbolic constellation of Chinese national governmentality and international positionality.
Each presenter focuses on a moment of profound social, political, medical and epistemological rupture: from the mass inoculation campaigns against cholera in the early 1960s, to HIV/AIDS starting from the 1980s, to SARS in the early 2000s. In all cases, medical emergencies were inscribed on cultural and political level by a reexamination of historical practices of self-care and a redefinition of national borders. Underscoring the political, cultural and epistemological continuities between the Maoist and post-Maoist period, the papers offer an alternative history of the contemporary Chinese milieu; they unveil epistemological legacies that shaped current understandings of epidemics and diseases in East Asia, and highlight China’s networked global positionality via epidemic containment.