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Disease and Social Restructuring: A Global Pandemic in Mao’s China
January 28, 2020 @ 12:00 pm - 1:00 pm
Bullitt History of Medicine Club lecture:
Speaker: Xiaoping Fang, Assistant Professor of History, Nanyang Technological University, and Fellow, National Humanities Center
This talk analyzes the dynamics between disease and social restructuring during the global cholera pandemic in Mao’s China between the three most radical political events of the 1960s: the Great Leap Forward, the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution. In 1961, El Tor cholera epidemic broke out on Sulawesi Island, Indonesia, becoming the seventh global cholera pandemic in recorded history. In China, El Tor cholera first broke out in Guangdong Province in June 1961. Following a large-scale but clandestine government campaign, the pandemic was contained in southeast coastal China by 1965. The 1961–1965 pandemic broke out and spread through southeast coastal China in a particular sociopolitical context when the Communist government committed to social restructuring to overcome the political crisis and reconsolidate the legitimacy of its rule. This sociopolitical change was intensified and complicated by the geopolitical roles of China within the international community at the peak of the Cold War. This research argues the global cholera pandemic was more than just a health incident in China—it was also, more importantly, a significant social and political exercise.
Xiaoping Fang is an assistant professor of history at the School of Humanities of the Nanyang Technological University, Singapore. He is Fellow of the National Humanities Center, USA, 2019-2020. His research interests focus on the history of medicine, health, and disease in twentieth-century China, specializing in the post-1949 period. He has published articles in journals such as Modern China, Medical History, the China Quarterly, and Modern Asian Studies. He is the author of Barefoot Doctors and Western Medicine in China (Rochester, NY: University of Rochester Press, 2012). He is currently completing a book manuscript on a global pandemic in Mao’s China.
About the Bullitt History of Medicine Club
Formed in 1953, the Bullitt History of Medicine Club is a student organization within the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill’s School of Medicine. The club promotes the understanding and appreciation of the historical foundations upon which current medical knowledge and practice is constructed, by encouraging social and intellectual exchanges between faculty members, medical students, and members of the community. The club’s annual McLendon-Thomas Award recognizes the best unpublished essay on an historical topic in the health sciences written by a UNC-Chapel Hill student. Please visit the Bullitt History of Medicine Club website for more information.