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CCCI: Cultivating A Therapeutic Self in Urban China

Monday, November 6, 2017 at 4:30pm to 6:00pm

Goldwin Smith Hall, G64, Kaufman Auditorium
232 East Ave, Central Campus

The Cornell Contemporary China Initiative Lecture Series, featuring interdisciplinary talks by scholars on issues in China today, runs every Monday this semester. 

Li Zhang, Professor of Anthropology, UC Davis

"Cultivating A Therapeutic Self in Urban China"

Facing intensified market competition and rapid social change, many Chinese are experiencing increased mental distress. In this talk, professor Zhang examines how psychological training and interventions play a vital part in cultivating a new self among urban middle-classes. She asks how the Chinese notion, ziwo (自我; self), is turned into an object of intense inquiry and how therapeutic techniques are deployed for self-development. The new forms of the self however continue to intersect with and complicate the existing social nexus, cultural sensibilities, and notions of personhood. Professor Zhang's ethnography explores how this therapeutic work contributes to intricate forms of subject-making that challenge such conceptual binaries as the private versus social self, the inner versus outer life, psychological versus social problems. While this “inner revolution” is giving rise to a profitable self-care industry and bears certain neoliberal traits, it also dovetails with the state’s project of building a “harmonious society” for conflict reduction.

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Mario Einaudi Center for International Studies, Asian Studies, East Asia Program, Global Cornell


isscal, chinacal, cashum, Anthropology, anthro


Cornell Contemporary China Initiative
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East Asia Program

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Li Zhang

Speaker Affiliation

UC Davis

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