Refashioning the Self through New Therapeutics in Urban China


Public lecture “Refashioning the Self through New Therapeutics in Urban China” presented by Professor Li Zhang, chair, Department of Anthropology, University of California, Davis. Co-sponsor: Department of Women’s, Gender, and Sexuality Studies, Emory University.

Oct.24, 4:00-5:30pm
Locaction: White Hall 111


A new mass psychological counseling movement is unfolding in contemporary China. In this talk I explore how, through this movement, middle-class Chinese (especially women) seek to refashion “the self” (ziwo) by turning it into an object of intense inquiry and pursuing personal development and fulfillment through therapeutic projects centered on the notion of self-management. I suggest that this new therapeutic work is contributing to intricate forms of urban subject-making that challenge a set of simple binaries: the private versus social self, the inner versus outer life, psychological versus social problems. Further, while this new regime of the self seems to bear certain neoliberal traits, it dovetails with the state’s project of building a harmonious society in post-reform China.

Li Zhang is Professor and Chair of anthropology and former Director of the East Asian Studies Program at the University of California-Davis. She was a 2008 John Simon Guggenheim Fellow. Her research concerns the cultural, spatial, political, and psychological repercussions of market reforms and postsocialist transformations in China. Her recent book examines housing privatization, the remaking of urban space, and the rise of the new middle classes in China. She has also co-edited a volume exploring how social technologies of privatization and neoliberalism articulate with diverse areas of life and politics in China. Her current project explores an emerging psychological counseling movement and how it reshapes Chinese people's understandings of selfhood, well-being, and governing in postsocialist times. She is the author of two award-winning books: Strangers in the City (Stanford 2001) and In Search of Paradise (Cornell 2010), and the co-editor of Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar (Cornell 2008).