Article Title

Asia Pacific Perspectives Vol. 14 No. 1, Fall 2016

Document Type

Full Issue



Editor's Introduction by Melissa Dale

This special issue presents five papers focused on themes related to the social history of medicine and contemporary cultural understandings of disease and patients' lived experiences in the Asia Pacific.

Rethinking Breast Mountain (Yuam): Surgical Treatments of Breast Cancer in South Korea, 1959-1993 by Soyoung Suh

This article analyzes premodern Korean medical treatises, professional surgical journals, and patient memoirs to expand our understanding of surgical treatment of breast cancer between 1959 and 1993 in South Korea. This essay discusses changing historical connotations of breast ailments, treatments, and surgical interventions. Although the depiction of breast cancer as a "suddenly emerging yet properly controllable epidemic" imagines a brighter future for Korean women, it often discounts past experience, and ignores contested ideas of the causes and treatments of the disease. The author traces the medical discourse around the adoption and rejection of Halsted's radical mastectomy procedure, and patient discourse through the memoir of Yi Hyo-suk's response to her own radical mastectomy in the late 1970's, in order to illustrate the manifold narratives about surgical intervention across time and profession.

Walking the Walk, Talking the Talk: Narratives that Challenge HIV/AIDS Taboos in Japan by Pamela Runestad

Illness narratives of Japanese people living with HIV/AIDS (yōseisha 陽性者) are written, performed, and embodied in culturally patterned ways that aim to simultaneously protect the narrator from stigmatization and discrimination while fostering public engagement and discussion about HIV/ AIDS so that Japanese, whatever their HIV status, can ‘live positively together’. These narratives demonstrate the efforts of yōseisha to assert their normalcy as Japanese through self-presentation on one hand, but advocate for acceptance of diversity on the other by stating that they cannot speak for all yōseisha. To illustrate these points, written, spoken, and performed narratives were gleaned from participant observation of HIV/AIDS events such as the AIDS Bunka Forum (AIDS 文化フォラム) and accounts of life with HIV/AIDS published by Place Tokyo (ぷれいす東京), Japan’s foremost HIV/AIDS organization. Framing these narratives in terms of ‘flexible kata’(型) I conclude that, despite the various formats these narratives are communicated, they share a general narrative structure mediated by strategic disclosure and controlled settings that can be adapted to fit the individuals, the sponsoring organization, and the audience involved. Use of this flexible kata makes it possible for yōseisha to speak relatively candidly about HIV/AIDS as a domestic issue from a variety of perspectives even though it is often considered taboo because of its association with death and ‘deviant’ sex.

Women and Medicine in Late 16th Century Japan: The Example of the Honganji Religious Community in Osaka and Kyoto as Recorded in the Diary of Physician Yamashina Tokitsune by Andrew Edmund Goble

This paper focuses on the topic of the access to medical treatment of women in an urban temple-town community in late 16th century Japan. The community was affiliated with the Honganji Pure Land religious movement, and was located first in Ōsaka and then in Kyoto. My primary source is the detailed daily diary kept by the aristocrat and physician Yamashina Tokitsune. He was resident in the community for at least fifteen years, and his patients were primarily commoners. In contrast to previous studies both of urban communities and of medicine in this era, this essay focuses on the extensive information that Tokitsune provides on women, their families and households. I examine the degree of access to medical treatment, the new ubiquity of pro-active attention to health and illness, and to the rhythms of health management and treatment for symptoms experienced by pregnant and post-partum women. I identify long-term female health support networks, suggest that medicine came to play a new and prominent role in daily life, and speculate that the study of women’s medicine is likely the most productive area for understanding the role of medicine in society in the pre-modern era.

"The Task is Hers:" Going Global, Margaret Sanger's Visit to China in 1922 by Mirela David

In 1922 Margaret Sanger visited China, enjoying great attention from Chinese social reformers for her feminism and eugenic ideas on birth control. This transnational project probes the dynamics of the intellectual encounter between western theorists such as Sanger and Chinese intellectuals such as Hu Shi. Sanger’s trip echoed images of China as a poster child for poverty and overpopulation in dire need of contraception, and it also ignited a debate in the Chinese press on the eugenic quality of birth control. The insertion of eugenics into other types of debates allowed a deeper discussion of possible solutions for China’s social problems to emerge. I investigate the intersections and explore the tensions between Malthusianism and eugenics, and feminism and eugenics as well as the local specificities of these debates and the translation and reception of Sanger’s speeches. Chinese male intellectuals considered women’s reproduction both in relation to women’s individual bodies, as well as its repercussions for the future of the Chinese nation. These latest considerations were primordial in considering the political potential of birth control advocacy in relation to Marxism and nationalism.

Kitchen as Classroom: Domestic Science in Philippine Bureau of Education Magazines, 1906-1932 by René Alexander Orquiza, Jr.

From 1906 to 1932, the Philippine Bureau of Education published three official magazines that explained the objectives of the American-run public schools. This article explores how Philippine Education, Philippine Craftsman, and Philippine Public Schools described the introduction and the teaching of domestic science during this period. It intervenes in previous scholarship on Philippine domestic science, the Filipina feminine ideal, and the efficacy and language of official texts in the public schools. Ultimately, it argues four contradictions about domestic science emerge in the magazines: 1) a lack of opportunity for the Filipina despite promises of expanding their role in society; 2) an inability to convince poorer, older Filipinos to change despite the hubristic belief in adoption by all; 3) a belief in the physical and mental limitations of Filipino people despite promises to improve Filipino bodies and lives; and 4) a cyclical promotion of western superiority that created a demand for imported goods while simultaneously paying for these items by selling western foods. Domestic science certainly strengthened and healed bodies in the Philippines, and it absolutely attempted widespread cultural change. Yet it ultimately was a practice for making food into an everyday reminder of American cultural hegemony in the Philippines.

Book Review: "Empires of Panic: Epidemics and Colonial Anxieties," Robert Peckham, ed. by Eric Tagliacozzo