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Panel B: History of Science

Location: Rm. 1009

Ruochen Cao, “What’s new about New-style Midwifery? Knowledge Production of Women’s Reproductive Health in Early PRC (1949-1965)”

Graduate Student, Department of History, UNC-Chapel Hill

Focusing on the health campaign of “new-style midwifery” (xin fa jie sheng) in the 1950s and 60s, this paper examines the production and circulation of knowledge and skills about women’s reproductive health in the early years of the People’s Republic of China (PRC). The health campaign of new-style midwifery was executed as a part of the state agenda to reform childbirth and reduce maternal and infant mortality rates, which aimed to retrain and modernize old-style midwives to help women deliver in a scientific way. However, scholars have identified that the so-called “new-style midwifery” in the PRC was not so new compared to the practices under its predecessor Guomindang’s childbirth reform during the republic era. This paper answers, then, how “new-style midwifery” became “new” and “scientific” in the official narrative of the PRC. What kind of tools, skills, and knowledge were required and produced to define the “new-style midwifery” as scientific and to differentiate it from its previous practices in a different political regime? When a political regime was eager to distinguish itself from its predecessor but at the same time desired modernization just as much, how did human anatomy and sanitization fit into their envision of the “new-style midwifery”? By reconstructing embodied knowledge and skills about scientific delivery and maternal care during the health campaign of “new-style midwifery,” this paper examines how scientific discourse shaped the construction of knowledge about women’s reproductive health; and explores how the standardization and scientification of this knowledge shaped healthcare workers’ labor and people’s understanding of women’s bodies in a socialist context.

Tingyu Cai, “The Development of Forensic Chemistry in 1930s China”

Graduate Student, Department of History, Duke University

This study examines the development of subspecialty forensic chemistry in Chinese forensic medicine since the 1930s. When the Nationalist government tried to regain social order in the early twentieth century, they formally advocated the use of “scientific methods” as a new and civilized means of distinguishing Chinese traditional forensic medicine from its poor track record. “Forensic techniques and instruments” were one of the most important features distinguishing Western forensic medicine from traditional Chinese forensic medicine. This paper is not a chronological account of the development of forensic chemistry, but rather focuses on my main question: How did forensic chemical identification techniques, and the experts who operated the whole set of techniques, establish their credibility in the social contexts and specific settings of different times? Here, the use of chemical forensics is regarded as a “foreign” and modern technology, and to a certain extent, it has become part of the government’s modernization and “scientization” projects. This kind of situation was also attached to the operation of the courts of the national government over time. From this, we can initially understand that courtroom science, is not only a “pure” science that obtains or observes natural phenomena through experiments in laboratories, but it is also highly involved in the judgment of law. It is also highly involved in the adjudication of law, which is an important way of defining the proper order of society; police officers and judges refer to the results produced by this science. It is clear that courtroom science is highly involved in the organization of social order, and that its knowledge is itself produced for courtroom adjudication and police investigation.

Zhelun Zhou, “‘Testing Ground for the Three Gorges Dam’: An Envirotech History of the Xin’an River Hydroelectric Station, 1955-1972”

Graduate Student, Department of History, UNC-Chapel Hill

Located in Chun’an County, Zhejiang Province, East China, Xin’an River Hydroelectric Station, completed in 1960, was known in Chinese media as the “testing ground for the Three Gorges Dam.” This proud statement pales in comparison with few Anglophone scholarships discussing the history of its construction and subsequent impacts on the local environment. A multipurpose dam project, the Xin’an River Hydroelectric Station serves to not only supply electric power to Shanghai, but also facilitates the development of local fishery and forestry. Narrated as the first hydroelectric station designed and built under the self-autonomy and self-reliance of the People’s Republic of China, the process of making and constructing the Xin’an River Station reflected the gathering process of an assemblage. Heterogenous entities such as the local landscape and ecologies, the power station, Chinese engineers and Party officials, and the surrounding peasants, all presented their agencies in shaping this project. Chinese engineers and Party officials designed and planned the construction of the power station under the weather of the Great Leap Forward. Peasants were forcibly relocated under official regulations and came into conflicts with the commune members in the new locations. While enterprises such as fishery and forestry thrived, erection of the dam didn’t put a stop to the flooding; instead, relocated peasants witnessed and suffered under the resurgence of the snail fever as their original homes were inundated. Adopting the “envirotech” approach proposed by historian Peter Perdue, this paper explores the mutual interactions between human, technology, and natural process during the construction of the Xin’an River Hydroelectric Station and its aftermaths in 1955 to 1972, as the dam was constructed, the peasants were displaced, and local ecologies were transformed.