Grant TypeDissertation Fieldwork Grant
Institutional AffiliationCalifornia, Berkeley, U. of
Grant numberGr. 9766
Approve DateOctober 24, 2018
Project TitleWong, Bonnie O., U. of California, Berkeley, CA - To aid research on 'Same, But Different: Surgical Practice in the Making of Chinese Modernity,' supervised by Dr. Aihwa Ong
BONNIE O. WONG, then a graduate student at University of California, Berkeley, California, was awarded a grant in October 2018 to aid research on ‘Same, But Different: Surgical Practice in the Making of Chinese Modernity,’ supervised by Dr. Aihwa Ong. What is surgery like in China and why does it matter? This ethnography of cancer surgery draws on sixteen months of fieldwork over eight years, and follows surgeons through their training, operations, and political climbs. Surgery in China is enmeshed in larger political narratives: each surgeon strives to be ‘a cut above’ not just for personal success but as part of a narrative of medical-technonationalism. While this ethnography begins in the operating room, it extends outwards to consider the specific configuration of technology, expertise, structures, systems, and ethical or moral norms which come together. What forms of knowledge emerge from this context and what are the barriers to how that knowledge is shared and circulated? This research captures China’s healthcare system at a crossroads: as scholars simultaneously try to stake a place within the international community and reject the need to ‘catch up’ to others, determined to prove strength on their own terms, through autonomy and decoupling from international expectations. This research explores the tensions between state priorities and international norms, between national politics and personal ethics, between standardization and expertise, to consider what an anthropology of surgery can teach us about China and global knowledge production today.