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AAS Panel "Africa through the Lens of Chinese Knowledge Makers: Medicine, Anthropology, and the Politics of Knowledge Production"

Feb 17, 2023 | 04:30 PM - 06:00 PM

Panel contribution by the Joint Center Worldmaking at the AAS Annual Conference on February 17, 2023


4:30-6:00 PM CET / 10:30 AM - 12:00 PM EST

About the panel

Organized by Emily Graf (A Translingual Conceptual History of Chinese Worlds), this panel inquiries into how Chinese doctors, social scientists, and political actors from the Mao era to the present have produced and disseminated knowledge about Africa. How was knowledge translated into new cultural and epistemological landscapes? What do these processes reveal about what China ultimately knows and wants to know about Africa? Yidong Gong analyzes contemporary Chinese medical professionals working in South Sudan, showing that different knowledge is disseminated by professionally trained doctors dispatched to Africa for one-year periods and less skilled doctors and health workers from China’s inland provinces working in private clinics run by Chinese businessmen. Emily Graf examines the role of Africa in China’s domestic and international promotion of barefoot doctors in the 1960s, inquiring how the concept of rural low-skilled health workers, who combined biomedical knowledge with local knowledge of Chinese medicine, traveled globally in China’s medical aid to Africa. Cheryl Schmitz analyzes the intersection between “overseas ethnography” and African Studies in the institutional landscape of the contemporary PRC, investigating the political and theoretical implications of increased interest from Chinese anthropologists in Africa. Igor Sevenard investigates the contemporary PRC as a provider of global public goods for health during the Ebola virus outbreak in Sierra Leone and the plague in Madagascar, examining conspicuous giving as a mechanism to improve China’s image as a responsible global player in global health. Collectively we explore how the development of medicine and anthropology as fields of knowledge in the PRC were shaped by diplomatic relations with African countries.


Divergence and Convergence: The Fluidity of Chinese Medical Expertises in South Sudan

Yidong Gong, New College of Florida

Africa in the Making of the Barefoot Doctor

Emily M Graf, Freie Universität Berlin

Going out in Academia: Overseas Ethnography and African Studies in the PRC

Cheryl Schmitz, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science

China’s Provision of Global Public Goods for Health: Sierra Leone (2014) and Madagascar (2017) in View of Great Power Responsibility

Igor Sevenard, Freie Universität Berlin


Emily Mae Graf, Freie Universität Berlin


Cheryl Schmitz, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science


Volker Scheid, Max Planck Institute for the History of Science