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In Session: Conceptualizing Mind and Madness: The Local, the Global, and the Dilemmas of Cross-Cultural Historical Inquiry
2: The Encounter of Western Psyche with Chinese Mind
Thursday, March 25, 2021
3:00pm – 4:30pm EDT
University of Warwick, United Kingdom
The conception of the mind gained unprecedented attention and criticism in early twentieth-century China due to the “cultural backwardness” in modernization. To promote nationalism, Chinese revolutionists endeavored to reinterpret the ‘Chinese mind’ to justify interventions in citizen reeducation. The most significant change was freeing the mind from familial, educational, and social bondage in order to pursue scientific study and political liberation.
This research examines the mutual adaptation of imported neologisms with indigenous cultural and philosophical epistemes. It focuses on the equivalent, mind and jingshen (essence and spirits), which became increasingly common and key in the discussion of mind as well as diagnosis of mental illness. By drawing on multilingual dictionaries, encyclopedias, and teaching texts, which recorded the adoption of Neologisms and their contexts, this study shows the complexity, dynamism and pluralism in translingual practices in modern history. It presents a contested history of conceptualization and reinterpretation of the human mind, which played a key role in revolutionary mobilization in Republican China. In the meanwhile, it demonstrates the importance of conceptual history research in Asian studies to avoid preconceptions and misunderstandings. This is also crucial in helping to account for the tensions of ideological reformation and the multi-interpretation of mental hygiene in the People's Republic of China.