Session Abstract: This panel examines the changes and contests in understanding, conceptualizing and redefining the “mind” and “madness” in India and China from the 1850s to the 1950s. It addresses some of the dilemmas that scholars are facing in studying Asian histories and cultures through English concepts and Western discourses. From the perspectives of medical, literary, and legal history, this panel shows the complexity of cross-cultural encounters by underscoring the tenacity of indigenous knowledge and practices in the consequential products of translingual discourses. This panel argues that the linguistic signs of the “mind” and its discursive “normality” and “abnormality” in Asian cultures have never been passive receptors of the universal givens introduced into Asia via Western psy sciences.
The first paper examines how the “power of mind” emerged as a potent category in colonial India to cure what nationalists regarded as a phase of “national impotency”. With a similar focus but in different colonial contexts, the second paper offers a historical explanation for the emergence of a discourse in modern China on the “sick” “Chinese mind” by situating it in a revolution that called for transforming the citizens through education. The third paper suggests that “madness” was employed by literati as a literary device and an identity maker to cope with disorientation in the transformative late Qing society. The last paper argues that the new law requiring professional certification of “mental illness” adopted in late Qing legal reform was not a result of Westernization but the codification of indigenous legal practice.
Paper Presenter: Shilpi Rajpal – Auro University, Surat
Paper Presenter: Jinping Ma – University of Warwick
Paper Presenter: Chang Xu – Washtington University in St. Louis
Paper Presenter: Yujie Pu – University of Illinois, Urbana-Champaign