Special Issue: “Ordering the Social: History of the Human Sciences in Modern China”

The March 2015 issue of the journal History of Science is a special issue on “Ordering the Social: History of the Human Sciences in Modern China.” Guest edited by Howard Chiang (right), the issue includes several articles that may be of interest to AHP readers. Among these articles are ones on Pavlovianism during the Maoist era, the origins of zaolian (early love) as a form of juvenile delinquency, and debates over koro. Full titles, authors, and abstracts follow below.

Editorial: “Ordering the Social: History of the Human Sciences in Modern China,” by Howard Chiang. No abstract.

“Disciplining China with the scientific study of the state: Lu Zhengxiang and the Chinese Social and Political Science,” by John H. Feng. The abstract reads,

This paper discusses the Chinese Social and Political Science Association and its impact on China’s inclination to Wilsonianism. The CSPSA was founded in Beijing in 1915. Two primary supporters were Lu Zhengxiang (China’s Foreign Minister) and Paul S. Reinsch (American Minister to China during the Wilson administration). It chose English as its official language in order to have dialogues with American scholars. The CSPSA had strong interests in constitutionalism, international relations and international law. As it pondered how to discipline China, it demonstrated its inclination to the American scientific study of the state. Epistemologically, this led to the political converge between China and the US during the Great War.

“From palaeoanthropology in China to Chinese palaeoanthropology: Science, imperialism and nationalism in North China, 1920–1939,” by Hsiao-pei Yen. The abstract reads,

Before the establishment of the Cenozoic Research Laboratory (Xinshengdai yanjiushi) in 1929, paleoanthropological research in China was mainly in the hands of foreigners, individual explorers as well as organized teams. This paper describes the development of paleoanthropology in China in the 1920s and 1930s and its transformation from the international phase to an indigenized one. It focuses on the international elite scientist network in metropolitan Beijing whose activities and discoveries led to such transformation. The bond between members of the network was built on shared scientific devotion, joint field experience, and social activities. However, such scientific internationalism was not immune from imperialistic and nationalistic interests and competition as most members of the network also belonged to institutions of the dominant hegemonic powers, such as the French Paleontological Mission and the American Museum of Natural History, operating by the logic of international system of imperialism. While these foreign institutions enjoyed relatively unrestricted access to the Chinese frontier and Mongolia in the early 20th century to discover and collect for the establishment of what they saw as universal scientific knowledge, in the late 1920s rising Chinese and Mongolian nationalisms began to interpret these activities as violations to their national sovereignty. The idea of establishing a “Chinese” institute to carry out paleoanthropological research in China took shape in such milieu. This paper highlights the entanglement between scientific internationalism, imperialism, nationalism in China in the early 20th century and the complicated process of knowledge formation at various national and personal levels.

“Pavlovianism in China: Politics and differentiation across scientific disciplines in the Maoist era,” by Zhipeng Gao. The abstract reads,

In the early 1950s, the Chinese communist party promoted a massive Learning-from-the-Soviet-Union Campaign and made Pavlov’s reflexology the political-academic orthodoxy in physiology, medical science and psychology. In the late 1950s, however, while Pavlov’s theory was continuously advocated by physiologists and medical scientists, it suffered a major setback in psychology as Pavlovian psychology was criticized as being bourgeois and reactionary. How was it possible for such sheer contrast across disciplines to take place within a few years? This paper argues that the greater ideologization of Pavlovian psychology was conditioned by a number of factors: the Sino-Soviet relations, the shifting Chinese communist policies, professional practices, local social conditions, disciplinary cultures and discursive performances. This historical reconstruction rejects a homogenizing view of the relation between politics and science in the Maoist China, and demonstrates ways in which historical localities and dynamics ruptured the overarching political context.

“Too young to date! The origins of zaolian (early love) as a social problem in 20th-century China,” by Yubin Shen. The abstract reads,

Zaolian (literally means “early love,” “zao” for “early”, “lian” for “love”) refers to courtship or dating among young people in elementary and secondary school systems. In today’s China, it is regarded as a serious social problem related to minors/adolescents. To safeguard their moral, hygiene and promising future, it is believed that zaolian should be prevented and controlled by school regulations, family pressures, and even state laws. This paper attempts to provide a historical explanation to origins of this specific juvenile delinquency in China’s long twentieth century. Firstly, it offers a critical discussion on current scholarships, which dismiss zaolian either as a Freudian sexual repression by the Chinese Communist regime since 1949 or as a product of this regime’s social control efforts in the early 1980s. Unconvinced by these explanations, it then presents a new approach to examine “moral, ideological and structural” origins of zaolian. The moral and ideological origins include traditional Confucian patriarchy and its sexual norms, a new regime of western medical sciences, and the sexual repressive regime of the Chinese Communist Party, and all of them could be traced at least in the early 20th century. Lastly, it turns to the more crucial structural origins, or the three institutional-buildings responding to globally circulating discourses since the early 20th century: modern marriage against zaohun (early marriage), family planning policy against zaoyu (early childbirth) and modern educational system. Zaolian as a social problem was fledged in the 1980s when the three institutions had been well-established in China.

“Translating culture and psychiatry across the Pacific: How koro became culture-bound,” by Howard Chiang. The abstract reads,

This article examines the development of koro’s epistemic status as a paradigm for understanding culture-specific disorders in modern psychiatry. Koro entered the DSM-IV as a culture-bound syndrome in 1994, and it refers to a person’s overpowering belief that his (or her) genitalia is retracting and even disappearing. I focus in particular on mental health professionals’ competing views of koro in the 1960s—as an object of psychoanalysis, a Chinese disease, and a condition predisposed by culture. At that critical juncture, transcultural psychiatrists based outside of continental China—namely, Taiwan, Hong Kong, and Singapore—appropriated ideas from traditional Chinese culture to consolidate the clinical diagnosis of koro as culture-bound. This new global meaning of koro was made possible by a cohort of medical experts who encountered the phenomenon and its sufferers in Sinophone (Chinese-speaking) communities, but placed their contributions within the broader contours of the global reach of Anglophone psychiatric science.

Share on Facebook

About Jacy Young

Jacy Young recently completed a Social Sciences and Humanities Research Council (SSHRC) of Canada Postdoctoral Fellow at the University of Surrey in the UK. She earned her doctorate in the History and Theory of Psychology at York University in 2014.

Leave a Reply

Your email address will not be published. Required fields are marked *