Mediating Between the Global and the Regional: Knowledge Production, Science, and Practices in Modern China
4: Transplanting Justice and Modernity: Medico-Legal Evidence of Sino-British Homicide Cases in Nineteenth-Century Shanghai
Friday, March 25, 2022
1:30pm – 3:00pm EST
Virtual Paper Presenter(s)
Georgia Institute Technology, United States
During early-mid Qing, China’s judicial official and forensic technician examined suspicious deaths of Chinese individuals with a set of well-established techniques of external postmortem examination, namely Washing Away of Injustice. Yet with the arrival of western imperial powers and the establishment of extraterritoriality since the 1840s, Western doctors and consuls strove to introduce a new way of forensic examination featured with the internal examination (dissection). In handling transnational Sino-British homicide cases, Qing authorities had to negotiate with western consuls and doctors regarding the manners of postmortem examination. This research puts the conflicting medico-legal evidence of the several transnational Sino-British homicide cases in late nineteenth century Shanghai at the center of discussion. I plan to address one question regarding the practice of western science in local: how did the western doctors, consuls, and other local actors play in “rematerializing” British forensic medicine in the British informal empire—the Shanghai International Settlement? I argue that the local operations of British forensic medicine in the Settlement demanded not only Western doctors examining suspicious deaths with Western techniques of anatomy, but also infrastructures such as public mortuaries, hospitals, and these indigenous actors, included Chinese inspectors of the Shanghai Municipal Police, Chinese dibao, and relatives of the Chinese deceased. The colonial modernity of British forensic medicine and suspicious death management in the Shanghai International Settlement was neither British nor Western, but local-embedded, collaborative, and hybrid.