To view this PAPER PRESENTATION, search for the session title in the Browse by Titlelisting. (See the session title located immediately below ["In Session:"])
China and Inner Asia
In Session: Fathoming and Fixing Minds: China in the World of Psy Sciences
4: Psychoanalysis Meets Confucianism and Daoism: In the Life and Work of Dai Bingham
Tuesday, March 23, 2021
12:00pm – 1:30pm EDT
University of California, Davis, United States
This paper explores the transpacific history of psychoanalysis through the life and work of Dai Bingham. Born in Fujian in 1899, Dai received his doctorate at the University of Chicago in 1937, practiced psychotherapy at the Peking Union Medical College from 1935 to 1939, and worked in the psychiatry department at Duke University from 1943 until his retirement in 1969. This paper follows Dai’s relocation to the United States and seeks to understand how he incorporated Chinese humanistic philosophy into therapy. At Duke, Dai began to sharpen two concepts that would remain central to his sociological psychiatry: the primary self and patient-centered therapy. Dai found solace in the claim of the Confucian philosopher Mencius that humans are good by nature. In his consulting room, it was the knowledge and actualization of the patient, rather than the therapist, that guided a successful therapeutic resolution. Over time Dai became less imposing of his views on the patient, an approach he claimed to have learned from not psychotherapy but the Daoist doctrine of wuwei. Throughout his career, Dai integrated competing intellectual traditions into his practice and argued for the benefit of their mutual enlightenment. A detailed study of Dai and his work thus challenges the idea that Western psychiatric systems have historically been incompatible with Chinese notions of care, selfhood, and human development. Dai’s professional legacy, moreover, contextualizes the rise of a network of Asian doctors, therapists, and psychologists who turned ideas about race and culture into a mainstay of mental health science.