Organized Panel Session
During the nineteenth and twentieth centuries, Asia’s increased exposure to modern science and medicine reshaped Asians' sense of self and identity. Asian women, in particular, experienced this transformation sharply, as they were often targets, but also participants, of social reforms proposed in medical and scientific circles. The recasting of Asian women’s identities, both self-constructed and imposed, is often overlooked in renditions of the cultural encounter between modern science and Asia. Nita Verma Prasad examines this issue as reflected in medicine and public health, arguing that British imperial physicians reshaped Indian women's identity, casting them as culturally and biologically degenerate, in order to justify continued British rule. Similarly, Chinese women reshaped their identities as they confronted modern science. Grace Shen explores the experiences of early Chinese women scientists, highlighting how they negotiated intercultural and transnational difference, and reshaped gender dynamics in the process.Their largely unknown story recasts other, more familiar narratives. Xiao Li examines the career of Yamei Kin, the first Chinese woman to receive a medical degree in the U.S., who used medicine to save lives and help Asian women gain greater independence. Violetta Ravagnoli examines how Grace Zia Chu, a famous Chinese cook, used domestic science to forge a new identity for the Chinese in America and influence the ethnicization process that changed the American political and social landscape. This panel thus examines how Asian women's identities were recast as their societies confronted modern science and medicine, and how Asian women themselves responded to this process.