Medicine, Body and the Making of a Subject

Title: 1029 | Medicine, Body and the Making of a Subject
Area: Border Crossing and Inter-Area
Stream: History
Presentation Type: Panel Presentation
Sang Eun (Eunice) Lee, University of California, San Diego, United States (organizer, chair, discussant)
Thomas Chan, University of California, San Diego, United States (presenter)
Kyung-Lin Bae, Texas A&M University, College Station, United States (presenter)
Gisele Cardoso de Lemos, Texas A&M University, College Station, United States (presenter)


How do medical rhetoric and discourses generate diasporic and citizen subjects in Asia? If medicine defines the biological body, how do subjects come to inhabit that body? How do individuals defy subject-making through subverting the totalizing gaze of medicine?
This panel interrogates the ways medical rhetoric and discourse permeates the process of making the subject, from the productive citizen and consumer of the empire, to “legitimate” survivors of patriarchal and nationalistic violence. We approach the conference theme, “Asia at the Crossroads,” by examining national and diasporic spaces to re-frame the histories of subject-making through the lens of medicine and medical languages.
While they come from varied disciplines such as history, literary studies, aesthetics, and gender studies, the collected works focus on medical rhetoric as a technology of governance and control in modern Asian contexts and highlight Asia as an important crossroad for the emerging discipline of medical humanities. Thomas Chan’s theorization of the opium addict in the 1950s People’s Republic of China highlights the ways in which different regimes reconfigure pathology to demarcate the boundaries of normativity. Similarly, Kyung-Lin Bae and Gisele Cardoso de Lemos explore subversive uses of medical discourse that unsettle the totalizing impact of medicine in subject-making; Bae notes how the language of schizophrenia disrupts patriarchal diasporic narratives on Partition, while Cardoso de Lemos challenges the normalization of the feminine body through the disfigured faces of acid attack survivors in India.

Panel Abstracts:
Living as Cancerous Organs: Reconceptualizing the Fragmented Bodies from the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor Studies to the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal
“A large, relatively healthy population at the time of exposure; all ages and both sexes; a wide range of doses, believed to be well estimated on an individual basis, to all organs of the body.” The United States Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) thus notes the importance of the Hiroshima/Nagasaki Atomic Bomb Survivor Study in estimating risk from ionizing radiation that continues to the Marshall Islands Nuclear Claims Tribunal. I argue that the atomic bomb, rewritten as “exposure,” both literally and figuratively divided the bodies of victims. Those who survived the blast were categorized into ages, sexes, and dosages, as well as pathological organs. Fragmented and collated into cancerous organs, from ovary to bone marrow, bodies of victims and their progeny continue to serve as baseline statistics for demarcating the recognized and unrecognized epidemiological impact of radiation. On the other hand, survivors and their kin narrate their victimhood as an expansive experience that cannot be contained within a fragmented body. I note the ways in which the bomb synthesizes rather than fragments the body, weaving it into the kinship fabric of racialized bodies. In this paper, I contrast the individual fragmented body in the EPA’s theorization against survivor’s intergenerational and synthesized body. Focusing on this gap between the pathological body under the medical gaze and a body of kinship and survival, I assert that the medical focus on division and standardization fails to address the expansive impact of radiation on the body.

Public Sacrifices of the Living Dead: Pathologizing and Instrumentalizing Drug Users in Twentieth-Century China
Immediately after the Chinese Communist Party (CCP) seized control of China in 1949 it undertook several mass mobilization and social cleanup campaigns to cement their control over Chinese society.. Focusing on the 1949 - 1952 anti-drug campaigns in particular this paper argues that Party leaders understood the type of violence employed in the public killings and mass-violence of the anti-drug campaigns as qualitatively different from other cleanup movements and actively employed it to demarcate the limits of citizenship rather than to simply eradicate undesirable behavior.The CCP constructed drug offenders as distinct from the social body of Chinese society by continuing pre-1949 propaganda efforts to dehumanize narcotics users. The Republican government (1912-1949) and anti-narcotics societies patronized illustrations of users as walking skeletons, vicious beasts, and bombs raining from above onto a helpless China. These illustrations legitimated future violence by presenting the narcotics user as no longer a fully human or productive member of society, and even as an existential threat. I examine these illustrations, their accompanying texts, and Chinese clinical studies to show how they invoked discourses of “medical modernity” to justify state policing, incarceration, and execution of narcotics users before and after 1949. Testimonies from the executions of narcotics offenders in the 1950s further reveals how deeply Republican era propaganda reified the figure of the “drug addict” as a particularly immoral or incomplete person that defined normalcy and citizenship through their exclusion from the body politic.

Schizophrenic Remapping of Diasporic Memories and the Gendered Trauma in Bhanu Kapil’s Schizophrene
I investigate how Bhanu Kapil’s Schizophrene legitimizes the schizophrenic woman as a viable poetic speaker of the transnational and transgenerational trauma of migration. This volume of poetry is presented as the fragmented remains of what was written originally as an epic of Indian and Pakistani diaspora; the text’s construction mirrors the historical uprooting and relocating of the diasporic communities of the Indian subcontinent. The extremely fragmented text, images, and languages further make the work symptomatic of the female poetic speaker’s schizophrenia. This converges with the traumatized mental scape of a woman who suffers from both national and domestic violences and relational disorders. My analysis seeks to suture that gap between the postcolonial/diasporic studies and the global studies of poetics in two ways. First, engaging with recent feminist and queer diasporic studies, I reveal Schizophrene’s critique of how poetic imaginations could be exploited to construct the nationalist state in South Asian diasporic communities, which elides women’s experiences and voices. Second, by analyzing Schizophrene’s poetic speaker as the lyric speaker, I argue that Kapil’s schizophrenic speaker puts pressure on Eurocentric lyric traditions that is still deeply embedded in the global studies of poetics. From these, I suggest that Kapil makes possible a mode of poetic imagination that arises from the experiences that are formerly considered unqualified, unintelligible, and thus illegitimate.

Representations of Acid Attack Survivors: Rethinking Reconstructive Surgeries in Visual Narratives
In the past, the medical approach of disability studies was used to analyze facial disfigurement due to acid attacks in terms of reconstructive surgeries and the normalization of the body. However, with the rise of cultural and sociological perspectives that take into consideration a decolonial method, representations of women disfigured by acid attacks become a visual space for a more complex debate that encompasses gender-based violence, social justice, solidarity, the face as a conveyor of emotions, and activism. This paper analyzes photographs of female acid attack survivors by Niraj Gera, a professional photographer based on Delhi, and self-portraits taken by Indian survivors. I argue that these photographers, in exploring the scarred face, present distinct narratives of survival

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