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Modern China Lecture Series Featuring Fang Xiaoping – Pandemics and Politics in Mao’s China: The Rise of the Emergency Disciplinary State
October 19, 2021 @ 8:00 pm – 9:30 pm
Speaker: Fang Xiaoping, Assistant Professor of History, School of Humanities, Nanyang Technological University, Singapore.
During the 1961-1965 period, a cholera pandemic ravaged the southeastern coastal areas of Mao’s China which was already suffering from lingering starvation, class struggles, political campaigns and geopolitical challenges of the Cold War. This lecture focuses on the first global pandemic that had plagued China after 1949 and the resulting large-scale but clandestine emergency response. Based on rare archival documents and in-depth interviews with the ever-dwindling witnesses of the pandemic, this lecture examines the dynamics between disease and politics when the Communist Party was committed to restructuring society between the Great Leap Forward and the Cultural Revolution. The speaker argues that disease and its control were not only affected by the social restructuring that began in the 1950s and strengthened since 1961, but also integral components of this. Quarantine, mass inoculation, epidemic surveillance and information control functionalised social control and political discipline, and therefore significantly contributed to the rise of an emergency disciplinary state, which exerted far-reaching impacts on its sociopolitical system and emergency response since Mao’s China, including the COVID-19 pandemic.
Xiaoping Fang is an assistant professor of history at the School of Humanities of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He received his PhD in History from the National University of Singapore (NUS), where he majored in modern China and the history of science, technology and medicine in East Asia from 2002 to 2008. He studied and worked at the Needham Research Institute, Cambridge, UK (2005-2006), the Asia Research Institute of the NUS (2008), the China Research Centre of the University of Technology, Sydney, Australia (2009-2013), and the National Humanities Center, USA (2019-2020). His research interests focus on the history of medicine, health, and disease in twentieth-century China and the socio-political history of Mao’s China after 1949. He is the author of Barefoot Doctors and Western Medicine in China (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2012) and China and the Cholera Pandemic: Restructuring Society under Mao (Pittsburgh, PA: University of Pittsburgh Press, 2021).
Presented via Zoom