States of Suffering: Female Suicide, Subjectivity and State Power in Rural North China

Oct 29, 2015 | 12:00 PM

Lee Hyeon Jung (Assistant Professor, Department of Anthropology, Seoul National University; HYI Visiting Scholar)
Chair/discussant: Arthur Kleinman (Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology, Harvard University; Professor of Medical Anthropology in Social Medicine, Professor of Psychiatry, Harvard Medical School)

Co-sponsored by the Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies

Up until recently China reported high rates of suicide, particularly due to a plethora of female suicides in rural areas. Based on ethnographic research in Hebei villages between 2004 and 2006 and in 2012 and 2013, this talk will examine different gendered subjectivities related to women’s suicidal behaviors in rural China. Research shows that female suicide in rural China is not simply an outcome of mental illness; it is a cultural practice reproduced over generations in the process of gendered learning and embodiment. The talk also discusses how suicide prevention efforts made by a feminist NGO and public health experts since the mid-2000s have contributed not only to reducing the rates of female suicide in rural areas but also to cultivating new gendered subjectivities more appropriate for changing Chinese society. 

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