Current Institutional Affiliation
Doctoral Candidate, Columbia University

Award Information

International Dissertation Research Fellowship 2015
Institutional Affiliation (at time of award):
East Asian Languages and Cultures, Columbia University
A Health Care Odyssey: Chinese Medical Aid in North Africa in the 1960s-70s

By examining Chinese medical missions in North Africa during the Mao years (1960s-70s), my project will document the rise of a globalizing China in the post-colonial world through the highly significant, yet heretofore overlooked, medical and humanitarian networks between Chinese provincial health institutions and African hospitals. From 1963 onwards, a steady trickle of medical teams arrived in Africa to promote a Chinese socialist medicine and mode of health care. What kind of medical and social knowledge did they transfer to and produce in African localities, and why these forms of knowledge? How did African patients experience and perceive their expertise? What did returning doctors bring home, and how did they negotiate the new social realities in China with their overseas experiences? Based on oral interviews, clinical observation, and archival material in China, Algeria, and Morocco, this project will explore how medical aid existed at the crossroads where humanitarian concerns and knowledge production encountered politics and ideology, and where global flows of people, ideas, and beliefs intersected the local. Through an alternative program of humanitarianism, China sought to establish a postcolonial model of relations with African countries that replaced earlier colonial circuits of missionary transmission of medicine. Meanwhile, a Chinese "new medicine," exemplified by acupuncture and herbal drugs, was produced and posited as a "world medicine" that could serve as an alternative to the hegemony of western biomedicine. The program also enabled the doctors to make claims to expertise and intellectual authority in the anti-elitist cultural climate that permeated Maoist China. This medical program formed in Africa a Chinese legacy that helps frame more recent encounters between China and Africa. My project contributes to our understanding of modern China as a globalizing power in the history of medicine, Sino-African relations, and socialist state revolution.