China and Inner Asia
Organized Panel Session
Bodies are not static; they transform with the passage of time, and their social meanings have evolved throughout history. This interdisciplinary panel investigates the body in a variety of liminal states–from gestating fetus to suspicious corpse to a life-sustaining object of consumption– to better understand the changing social meanings of bodies in Chinese society.
Guojun Wang examines forensic studies of dead bodies in late imperial Chinese crime drama, unveiling the interplay between theatrical representation and forensic investigation. Nicole Richardson approaches fetal education as a Foucauldian example of bodily self-discipline as she analyzes modern Chinese debates over how to adapt the premodern practice to produce a modern citizenry. Tiffany Tsai discusses medical cannibalism, showing that the use of human bodies as medicine has shaped people’s understanding of their body, health, and identity from modern to contemporary China.
The panel examines bodies across three types of transitions: the physical transformation of bodies (from fetus to person, from flesh to food), the premodern-to-modern transition, and the translation of bodies from materials to objects of representation and loci of politics. In doing so, it covers three stages of life: birth, death, and extension of life. David Luesink, chair and discussant of the panel, will enrich the conversation with his expertise on modern anatomical science and changing conceptions of the body. Focusing on the interactions between writing and bodily practices, the panel reveals how bodies obtain meaning within historical and cultural discourses in the context of power relations from traditional to contemporary China.