Organized Panel Session
Towards the end of the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945), China’s Nationalist government had established 32 rehabilitation camps in 10 provinces that housed over 70,000 military casualties. Drawing from historical sociological studies of the only camp that housed blinded veterans and their dependents (wives, children) in rural Sichuan, this paper investigates how the war’s production of a sensory disability reshaped the relationship between veterans and the state. In the scheme of rehabilitation, war blindness became a corporeal asset for veterans to claim financial supports from the state as long as veterans followed the protocol of reconfiguring their injured body to fit the state’s demands of productivity. In reality, however, the obligation of veterans to support their families had driven them to engage in a variety of nonproductive and illicit activities (e.g. singing, fortune telling, gambling, opium smuggling) that deviated from the goal of rehabilitation and reproduced routine dependency upon the state. In comparing the state’s remodeling of disability to fit the military-industrial system with individual investments in disability to meet familial responsibilities, this paper argues that wartime rehabilitation programs weakened the link between disabled veterans and the Nationalist state.