China has a distinguished modern history of supporting its national heritage of traditional medical knowledge. In recent years, research has focused on traditional medicine of the minority nationalities of China. This “multicultural” process expresses particular features of Chinese state power as it engages and manages local variation. And it reveals many forms of life that escape nation-state projects. This discussion considers the relations in practice between grassroots medical institution-building and the healing powers that both inform it and evade it.
Judith Farquhar is Max Palevsky Professor of Anthropology Emerita at the University of Chicago where her research has focused on traditional medicine, popular culture, and everyday life in contemporary China. Her books on these topics include Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing, coauthored with Qicheng Zhang (2012); Appetites: Food and Sex in Post-Socialist China (2002); and Knowing Practice: The Clinical Encounter of Chinese Medicine (1994). As a 2015–16 Fellow at the National Humanities Center, she is working on Gathering Medicine in the Mountains: Nation, Body, and Knowledge in China’s Ethnic South with Peking University anthropologist Lili Lai.