The Movement of Neurasthenia: Indigenization and Conceptualization of Psychiatry in the Early Twentieth-Century China
Groningen Research Institute for the Study of Culture, Faculty of Arts, University of Groningen, firstname.lastname@example.org
Supervisors: Prof. Dirk Jan Wolffram, Dr Ya-pei Kuo, Dr. W.D. Daling
02/2018 – 04/2019 Msc History and Theory of Psychology, University of Groningen
Reflecting on Psychology (Theory and History of Psychology)
Master Thesis: The Epistemic Explanatory Structure of the Diagnostic Kinds: How are Explanations in Psychiatry related to the Nature of Mental Disorders
09/2014 – 01/2018 Bc Psychology, University of Groningen
Bachelor Thesis: Different Levels of Interpersonal Coordination in a Dyadic Wii Game
Summary PhD Project
The PhD project examines the global circulation of the psychiatric phenomenon neurasthenia (Shenjing Shuairuo) between China and the United States. Through the case study of the circulation of “neurasthenia”, the project intends to provide a historical, theoretical and critical study of translation between different knowledge systems.
The PhD study includes two historical inquires: the integration of neurasthenia into Chinese medicine in Republican China (mainly from the 1910s to the 1930s) and the introduction of Shenjing Shuairuo among other “culture-bound syndromes” into the Diagnostic and Statistical Manual of Mental Disorders (DSM) in American psychiatry. The project contextualizes the two processes of knowledge translation into the historical moments in which they occurred. The diagnostic term “Shenjing Shuairuo” emerged in Republican China when Chinese medicine was undergoing major transformation. Through the translation and reinvention of the medical term, practitioners of Chinese medicine conformed to the norm of Western science while securing the space for their indigenous medical practice. On the other hand, the American Psychiatric Association (APA) started to integrate what they called “culture-bound syndromes” into the DSM from the 1990s, following their dialogue with transcultural psychiatry. By the placement of “culture” into their guideline, the APA attempted to defend their discipline by responding to the criticism of ethnocentrism.
I intend to examine the two cases of translation through the lens of Science and Technology Studies. On one hand, conceptual categories from STS, such as “paradigm”, “network”, “incommensurability” and “episteme”, can help to understand knowledge translation between Chinese medicine and American psychiatry. On the other hand, translation of medical knowledge between the West and the non-West can exemplify and complement theories of STS. In short, the circulation of neurasthenia should be understood from the conceptual change, internal struggle, and structural transition of the knowledge system from which it is translated and localized.