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DVCS XXXII. Annual Conference - Contributions by the Joint Center

News vom 03.01.2023

December 9 – 11, 2022, the 32. Annual Conference of the German Association for Chinese Studies (DVCS) on the topic “Sustainability: China's approach to the environment and posterity in the past and present” took place at the Centre for Chinese Studies at Kiel University. The Joint Center had been represented by members from three of the center’s locations presenting their research in five out of eight panels. Additionally, Dominic Sachsenmaier held a keynote speech on the occasion of the 10th anniversary of the Centre for Chinese Studies at Kiel University. Please find here the abstracts of three talks:

A Sustainable Health Policy? A Review of the Concept of Barefoot Doctors

by Emily Graf (A Translingual Conceptual History of Chinese Worlds)

The presentation of Emily Graf put the controversial discussion of the sustainability of the barefoot doctors who were supposed to revolutionize PRC health policy in the 1960s and 1970s into the focus. Barefoot doctors were health workers with only basic medical training who provided primary health care in rural areas of the PRC. With the reform and opening-up policy and privatization of the health sector, the program was officially abolished, but the concept still persists in the collective memory to this day. The presentation explored the challenges and opportunities that the barefoot doctor program presented in terms of sustainability.

Challenges included finding individuals who wanted to stay on the land for the long term. Challenges were also evident in the use of certain medicines (e.g. antibiotics), which from today's perspective raises the question of sustainable treatment methods (antibiotic resistance). On a global level, the relevance of barefoot doctors can be seen, for example, in medical development policies in Africa to this day. Since the 1960s, coinciding with the Barefoot Physicians program at home, VR, by providing medical teams abroad, became an actor in global health policy. In the current global health policy, the question of how to make it sustainable arises again. Sustaining postings over the long term remains difficult, whether they are from urban to rural or from domestic to international. This is evident today with the deployment of Chinese doctors to Africa.

Despite the challenges, the concept of the barefoot doctor, as a link between the population on the one hand and specialist medicine and the state health system on the other, has contributed to sustainable health policy and can also be found in today's models, such as the so-called community health workers.

Ecological and Cultural Habitats: Identity Construction and Ecocriticism in Minority Literatures

by Sara Landa (Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change)

Sara Landa's contribution examined how the relationship between ecology and cultural identity of local and global habitats is negotiated among minority authors. The focus thereby laid on the Mongolian-born writer Guo Xuebo and the Uyghur author Zhang Chengzhi in China, but also cast side glances at comparable constellations in other late and post-socialist literatures, such as the Kirghiz Chingis Aitmatov in the Soviet Union and Sorbian authors like Jurij Brězan and Jurij Koch in the GDR. In the process, Chinese approaches to a literary ecocritisicm were re-examined in a world literary context. A particular focus concerned the question of the role played by the juxtaposition of 'realistic' and 'fantastic' narrative techniques and the intertextual reference to different circles of sagas and myths in both the constitution of specific identities and the articulation of global threat narratives.

The Place of China in the Planetary Humanities

by Dominic Sachsenmaier (Conceptions of World Order and Their Social Carrier Groups)

The first part of the paper assessed the place of China as an object of thought and subject of academic research in different parts of the world. In this context, Dominic Sachsenmaier elaborated on recently changing perceptions of China that are connected with shifting global realities including mounting geopolitical tensions and a discussion of examples from different academic systems around the world. From this background, the talk, secondly, drew on the discourse on the relationship between some Chinese and other – for instance African or Latin American – critiques of Western hegemony and Eurocentrism. The question raised in this context was how we situate critiques of China in a complex world in which global hierarchies of knowledge remain widely centered on the West, but in which China also has become a powerful global agent? And, thirdly, what intellectual traditions and scholarly perspectives emanating from China can be fed into the search for a planetary humanities that is committed to a search for a more balanced, sustainable world order.

The role of sustainability in China's Community of Common Destiny, using the Green Belt and Road Initiative as an example.

by Igor Sevenard (A Translingual Conceptual History of Chinese Worlds)

In pursuit of global leadership, China has developed its own concepts for sustainable development and brought them to the UN or harmonized them with international concepts. China accepted that sustainability and environmental protection became a common concern for all countries that had international relations with China. In order to take concrete measures in the field of sustainability, China then included the issue of sustainability in the already existing "New Silk Road Initiative" (Belt and Road Initiative). Thus, the so-called Green Belt and Road Initiative (Green BRI) was born. The presentation of Igor Sevenard deciphered what discourses have influenced China's thinking on the Green BRI, who the actors are in China's Green BRI, and what specific actions are being taken within this framework. Finally, using the African Union as an example, a differentiated look was taken at what concrete actions are taken within the Green BRI framework and whether the Green BRI is able to develop innovative sustainability concepts for the future.

The Protection of Creatures: Global Animal Conservation and the Transformation of Buddhist Ethics during the Republic Period

by Matthias Schumann (Epochal Life Worlds: Man, Nature and Technology in Narratives of Crisis and Change)

Buddhism has a long tradition of ethical engagement with the non-human world, based on the assumption of the entanglement of all worldly phenomena. The presentation by Matthias Schumann explored the question of how this tradition changed during the Republic period (1912-1949), when Chinese Buddhists increasingly positioned themselves as part of a global animal rights movement. Against this backdrop, this presentation examined the extent to which established Buddhist concepts and practices that historically primarily served individual salvation were linked to new social goals and issues. Can the call for the "protection of creatures" be understood as an expression of an alternative conception of society directed against a social Darwinist exploitation of the non-human environment, which was formulated in a similar way in Europe during this period? Given the global entanglements of the time, there is also the question of the extent to which Buddhist practices such as animal release, which often cost the lives of large numbers of animals and has been repeatedly criticized in the recent past as unsustainable, have been challenged and revised in light of global notions of animal welfare and protection. By discussing these issues, the lecture also demonstrated the extent to which religious traditions such as Buddhism can contribute to current debates about animal welfare and environmental protection.

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