This groundbreaking volume captures and analyzes the exhilarating and at times disorienting experience when scientists, government officials, educators, and the general public in East Asia tried to come to terms with the introduction of Western biological and medical sciences to the region. The nexus of gender and health is a compelling theme, for this is an area in which private lives and personal characteristics encounter the interventions of public policies. The nine empirically based studies by scholars of history of medicine, sociology, anthropology, and STS (science, technology, and society), spanning Japan, Korea, China, Taiwan, and Hong Kong from the 1870s to the present, demonstrate just how tightly concerns with gender and health have been woven into the enterprise of modernization and nation-building throughout the long twentieth century.
The concepts of “gender” and “health” have become so commonly used that one might overlook that they are actually complicated notions with vexed histories even in their native contexts. Transposing such terminologies into another historical or geographical dimension is fraught with problems, and what makes the East Asian cases in this volume particularly illuminating is that they present concepts of gender and health in motion. The studies show how individuals and societies made sense of modern scientific discourses on diseases, body, sex, and reproduction, redefining existing terms in the process and adopting novel ideas to face new challenges and demands.
Angela Ki Che Leung is director and chair professor of the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.
Izumi Nakayama is an honorary assistant professor and a research officer in the Hong Kong Institute for the Humanities and Social Sciences at the University of Hong Kong.
“Whether reviewing the comparative national histories of birth control, debating early cases of transsexual surgery, or highlighting the resurgence of ‘traditional’ Asian medical commodities, this volume provides accessible and productive studies on these intriguing topics in Asia. Scholars of modern East Asia and indeed anyone concerned with the analysis of gender and health in light of intersecting postcolonial studies will find the book rewarding.” —Rayna Rapp, New York University
“A bold and important volume that explores the interweaving of gender, body, and modernity throughout East Asia. With vivid articles on sexuality, reproductive technologies, and sexual identities, the book opens multiple possibilities for how ‘Asia as method’ can shine new light on persistent theoretical questions from biopower to biocitizenship.” —Ruth Rogaski, Vanderbilt University