China and Inner Asia
Session Abstract: Medical emergencies create a void of signification, a rupture, and their metaphorical meanings imbue and politicize the social realm. Hu Fayun, a Chinese novelist, holds that epidemics know no borders, as they are more political than medical events. This panel continues Hu’s statement and holds that epidemics and pandemics determine not only medical, but political, social and cultural world-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, borders and identities. 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. The collaborative work here proposes composite methods of intellectual grounding of the current pandemic while drawing on legacies of past emergencies. Each presenter focuses on a moment of profound rupture: from the Spanish flu’s presence in China, to HIV/AIDS, to SARS and to the ongoing COVID-19 pandemic. In all cases, medical emergencies were inscribed on cultural and political levels by a reexamination of historical practices of self-care and identity formation and a redefinition of national borders. Underscoring the political, cultural and epistemological continuities through the 20th century, the papers offer an alternative history of the contemporary Chinese milieu; they unveil legacies shaping current understandings in East Asia of the ongoing pandemic, and highlight China’s networked global positionality via epidemic containment.
Paper Presenter: Johanna Hood – University of New South Wales, Australia
Paper Presenter: Shelley Chan – Wittenberg University
Paper Presenter: Rong Huang – Peking University
Paper Presenter: Victoria O. Lupascu – University of Montreal