Organized Panel Session
Resonating with Benedict Anderson’s Imagine Communitiesthesis, the discourse and practice that this panel examines reveal how medicine articulated shared national experiences related to eating, drinking, and defecating, as well as the diseases that afflicted both country and countrymen. Little has been written on disease and imagined communities. Brett Walker (2010) argues that sufferers of industrial pollution disease “knew” Japan, because national economic policies prioritized development over citizen’s health, through the pain they experienced. Alexander Bay (2012) writes that beriberi in Japan became a national disease, in both popular and medical discourse, through imperial expansion during the Meiji period. From Farmers Gold to Parasite Citizenshighlights how public health officials imagined a community in which disease and health were fundamental understandings that rooted people in, and made them part of, a particular national experience.
Bay reveals how doctors couched parasite disease prevention in terms of a unique Japanese nation. Nightsoil recycled as fertilizer, a predilection for vegetables, and a geography and climate made Japan a “nation of parasites” and turned the people into “parasite citizens.” Smith examines the domestication of Western nutrition in China, arguing that ideas were adopted and adapted to be both scientific and Chinese without the taste of dietary imperialism. Barnes shows that the Nationalist’s retreat to Chongqing engineered a revolution in how the government and public health officials dealt with the logistical and medical problems of removing effluent from cities.