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MA Seminar "A History of Medicine in China: A History of Knowledge, A History of Ignorance"

News from Apr 08, 2022

A MA seminar on A History of Medicine in China: a history of knowledge, a history of ignorance will begin on April 21, 2022. The seminar will be led by Emily Mae Graf, postdoctoral researcher of the project "A Translingual Conceptual History of Chinese Worlds." Igor Sevenard, predoctoral researcher in the same project, will also present his work on "China's Global Health Governance in the 21st Century: Infectious Diseases and Great Power" in the seminar.

About the seminar:

This class provides an overview over the history of medicine in China. It will offer insights into medical practices and theories in imperial China, will investigate the period of upheaval when early concepts of biomedicine were introduced into China in the late imperial and Republican Period, will present key moments in the medical histories of the PRC and Taiwan, and will include contemporary experiences and health policies in the PRC, Hong Kong, and Taiwan during the Covid-19 pandemic. The class introduces key actors from the field of health (from physicians to religious and supernatural healers, from barefoot doctors to surgeons) and aims at understanding structural changes of the Chinese health care systems over time and their embeddedness in global structures of health. Students learn to investigate critically the concept of “Traditional Chinese Medicine” as well as challenge universal claims made by biomedicine as a science and place them into its history. The class will zoom into the local and zoom out to the global when discussing medical knowledge at different scales, be it when understanding China’s local medical histories which feature local concepts, such as, for example, the concept of “warm diseases” (wenbing) that resists modern biomedical nosology, or when tracing Chinese health concepts when they travel abroad, as in China’s health aid to Africa, for example. By understanding histories of medicine as histories of knowledge, we examine what was understood as medical knowledge, by asking who had the power to define it as knowledge. At the same time, we will also approach the history of medicine in China as a history of ignorance, investigating when and why the control of knowledge, the production of “alternative” knowledge systems, and even not-knowing in and as itself played a role in Chinese medical practices. The class explores these questions through sources across different media, working with textual histories, contemporary policy papers, literary texts, but also images and film.


Thursdays, 21.4., 28.4., 5.5., 12.5., 19.5., 2.6., 9.6., 16.6., 23.6., 30.6., 7.7., 14.7., 21.7.2022




Freie Universität Berlin, Habelschwerdter Allee 45, room JK 25/132

Class language:



Those who are interested participating in the seminar should contact Emily Mae Graf via emily.graf[at]fu-berlin.de

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