Dean of the College and Anthropology Program Present
Beyond “Magic Needles”: The Making of Traditional Chinese Medicine in Post-conflict South Sudan
Thursday, November 3, 2022
4:30 pm EDT/GMT-4
4:30 pm EDT/GMT-4
Yidong Gong, PhD, Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International & Area Studies, New College of Florida (Honors College of Florida)For decades, Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM) has been a significant component of China’s medical interventions in Africa. China is also asserting itself through TCM in post-conflict South Sudan. In this talk, I focus on the transmission of TCM to South Sudan and track the unexpected transnational connections of medicine between China and Africa. I pay special attention to pain, which lies at the heart of clinical practice and social life in post-conflict South Sudan. In South Sudanese conceptions, pain is a composite of body and mind, clinical and existential, speakable and unspeakable, social and religious, while also defying linguistic categorization. Despite the multiple non-somatic modalities that define pain and illness for South Sudanese, they are nevertheless drawn to TCM (acupuncture in particular) as a quick fix – a fast-track method for coping with pain. In this process, different agents participate in the production of desires, values, and symbols related to TCM. The employment of TCM as miracle cures, painkillers, and new sources for innovation in South Sudan opens a window into the often uneven social life of medicine. The discourse and practice of TCM create a multi-layered site for negotiation, transfiguration, and knowledge production. It is portrayed and practiced as an assemblage of meanings, socialities, and actions; as both miraculous and rapid, biomedical and alternative, traditional and innovative. I will explore these contradictions and reflect on the nature of ties between China and Africa today.
Yidong Gong is an Assistant Professor of Anthropology and International & Area Studies, and a core faculty member of the interdisciplinary program Health, Culture and Societies, at New College of Florida (NCF), the State University System of Florida’s designated honors college. He is also an inaugural fellow of the Nielsen Center for the Liberal Arts at Eckerd College.
His teaching and research interests include medical anthropology, global health, mental health, critical humanitarianism, South Sudan, East Africa, and China. He received his PhD from Duke University in Fall 2019 and was a University of California President’s Postdoctoral Fellow in AY 2019-2020. He had previously worked as a bilingual feature writer covering science, technology and medicine, as well as a Pyongyang-based foreign correspondent. His research focuses on the intertwined relationship between medical expertise and biopolitics in transnational healthcare, particularly their convergence and friction in Africa. His current book project examines China’s long-standing medical programs in South Sudan, which offer an alternative to the widely accepted logic and values of medical humanitarianism in places marked by “crisis” or “conflict”. His scholarly and journalistic publications have appeared in The China Quarterly, Somatosphere, Science, SciDev.Net, among others.
For more information, call 845-758-7667, or e-mail [email protected].
Time: 4:30 pm EDT/GMT-4
Location: Olin 102