Reconsidering Illness in East Asia: Matters of Scale

AHA Session 248
Saturday, January 7, 2017: 1:30 PM-3:00 PM
Centennial Ballroom G (Hyatt Regency Denver, Third Floor)
Andrew E. Goble, University of Oregon
Andrew E. Goble, University of Oregon

Session Abstract

Illness can generally be defined as the state of being unwell, and the papers in this panel reflect on differing understandings of medical disorders in East Asia through the lens of scale. The variety of approaches include considering spatial and temporal dimensions, the context of military practices, and a broadening geographical sphere. James Flowers’ study examines Korean efforts to preserve “traditional” medicine through reflections on classical canonical texts that were shared with those in China, and investigations into the geographic imagination during the late nineteenth and early twentieth centuries that were reconceptualized on a global scale. Hilary Smith’s paper turns to disorders in classical Chinese medicine which now correspond to diseases such as smallpox, thyphoid fever, and beriberi, while considering the large shifts in medical understandings in the late nineteenth century. Smith questions whether it is productive to consider the classical Chinese categories over the longue durée, or if it leads to subordinating these earlier conceptions to ones that were established within the context of biomedicine. Reut Harari’s work focuses on the role of medics during the First Sino-Japanese War, who functioned as agents within the nexus of the military and medical complexes, while the scale of warfare also changed spatially and numerically in the late nineteenth century. Sare Aricanli’s study points to a category of illness defined as the inability to adapt to climatic conditions, and which existed within the context of an ever-expanding realm during the long eighteenth century. Moreover, Aricanli shows that this illness was found in a world that also valued both local medicines as well as drugs produced by the imperial center. By exploring connections within and across spatial realms, temporal frames, and realities of expanding space and the military context, this panel considers the ways in which concepts of illness in East Asia not only exhibited shifts over time, but were also defined in a multiplicity of ways.
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