Organized Panel Session
This panel explores the ways in which control over bodies and the optimization of biological functions have become integral to modern governance, a phenomenon Michel Foucault terms “biopolitics.” Scholarship with respect to biopolitics in twentieth century East Asia tends to focus on individual national narratives and assumes that differences in political ideologies—liberalism, fascism, communism, and capitalism—inform fundamentally different structures of governance. Through analyses of East Asian countries, this panel brings into question this assumption and highlights the emergence of parallel structures of bodily governance among East Asian states despite their putatively different ideologies.
While each panelist examines a distinct region and time period within the twentieth century, together these papers reflect on governmental efforts to manage the health, productivity, fertility, and mortality of the population in response to political, military, economic, and social insecurity. Through their analyses of state life insurance and maternal health programs, Ryan Moran and Sujin Lee shed new light on efforts to socially engineer the population of wartime Japan. Sarah Mellors’ paper on China’s population policy in the early 1960s examines the goals and tensions inherent in the precarious state-driven birth control campaign that preceded the implementation of the One Child Policy. Taking a broader geographical focus, Michael Liu ties the four papers together with his examination of the integration of colonial medicine across East Asia into the international health system. In sum, this panel seeks to transcend state-centered ideological histories and instead highlight commonalities across East Asian biopolitical states.