Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs
China Initiative

Katherine A. Mason ─ Infectious Change: Reinventing Chinese Public Health After an Epidemic

Monday, May 9, 2016

4:00pm – 5:30pm

McKinney Conference Room

Book signing with author and reception to follow.

In February 2003, a Chinese physician crossed the border between mainland China and Hong Kong, spreading Severe Acute Respiratory Syndrome (SARS)—a novel flu-like virus—to over a dozen international hotel guests. SARS went on to kill about 800 people and sicken 8,000 worldwide. By July 2003 the disease had disappeared, but it left an indelible change on public health in China. The Chinese public health system, once famous for its grassroots, low-technology approach, was transformed into a globally-oriented, research-based, scientific endeavor.

In Infectious Change, Katherine A. Mason investigates local Chinese public health institutions in Southeastern China, examining how the outbreak of SARS re-imagined public health as a professionalized, biomedicalized, and technological machine—one that frequently failed to serve the Chinese people. Mason recounts the rapid transformation as young, highly trained biomedical scientists flooded into local public health institutions, replacing bureaucratic government inspectors who had dominated the field for decades. Infectious Change grapples with how public health in China was reinvented into a prestigious profession in which global impact and recognition were paramount—and service to vulnerable local communities was secondary.

Commentators on the panel will include:

Vanessa Fong, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Amherst College

Sherine Hamdy, Associate Professor of Anthropology, Brown University

Joan Kaufman, Lecturer in Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School and former Director, Columbia Global Centers, East Asia.

Elanah Uretsky, Assistant Professor of Global Health, Anthropology, and International Affairs, George Washington University

Katherine A. Mason,  author and Assistant Professor of Anthropology, Brown University 

Moderated by Edward Steinfeld, the Howard R. Swearer Director of the Thomas J. Watson Institute for International and Public Affairs, professor in the Department of Political Science, and director of the China Initiative.