The first issue of Medical Anthropology in 2017 is a special issue, “Between Biopolitical Governance and Care: Rethinking Health, Self, and Social Welfare in East Asia.” Enjoy!
Between Biopolitical Governance and Care: Rethinking Health, Selfhood, and Social Welfare in East Asia (open access)
Amy Borovoy & Li Zhang
(There is a video abstract, too.)
In East Asia, health has historically been entwined with notions of morality and broader social ideals. But can the state and other institutions legitimate their involvement in everyday life habits that contribute to poor health outcomes? For example, food consumption, smoking, or cancer—issues that can be conceived as a matter of
‘individual choice’ and personal responsibility. In this issue, we explore the fine lines between exercises of social power that are repressive and controlling, and those that are productive, caring, or supportive. We examine intersections of individual desires and self-work with statism and the public good—for instance, drug addiction care and the use of psychological counseling in China, understanding cancer and stress in South Korea, and the containment of harmful behavior in Japan.
In this article, I explore how and why psychological intervention, often in the name of guanai (care), has gradually become a critical tool of managing the population and governing society in postsocialist China. Psychological counselors and experts are becoming a new form of authority, an indispensable part of creating and managing knowable, stable, and governable subjects for the military, the police, schools, and enterprises. ‘Therapeutic governing’ refers to the adoption of the therapeutic ethos, techniques, and care to improve the management of the work force and to help individuals cope with life in a rapidly changing society.
The views, opinions and positions expressed by these authors and blogs are theirs and do not necessarily represent that of the Bioethics Research Library and Kennedy Institute of Ethics or Georgetown University.