Post-Mao China has seen the embrace of a neoliberal market logic that has brought the objectification and commodification of human bodies and body parts to its logical conclusion—kidneys, livers, and even hearts and corneas are now available within weeks for anyone able to pay. The rejection of the collective values and morality of the Maoist period, combined with the defunding of military, police, and health care institutions and the encouragement for these agencies to find their own revenue streams, has coincided exactly with a global revolution in transplant surgery and immunosuppressive drugs that make transplant surgery a miracle cure when suitable organs are available. Chinese people have long had a strong cultural preference to preserve their bodies intact to the grave, and this, combined with a lack of faith that organ distribution systems are fair, has meant that donation rates...
Chinese Surplus: Biopolitical Aesthetics and the Medically Commodified Body
David Luesink is assistant professor of East Asian history in the History Department at Sacred Heart University. He has previously taught at the University of Pittsburgh and was Luce Foundation Postdoctoral Fellow at IUPUI. He is currently finishing a book manuscript called The Body Politic and the Body Anatomic in China, which examines how premodern analogies between the human body and the state help us to understand how dissection-based, racial anatomy were used to construct the notions of the Chinese population in the twentieth century. His volume China and the Globalization of Biomedicine (co-edited with William H. Schneider and Zhang Daqing) was published in 2019.
David Luesink; Chinese Surplus: Biopolitical Aesthetics and the Medically Commodified Body. East Asian Science, Technology and Society 1 June 2020; 14 (2): 423–426. doi: https://doi.org/10.1215/18752160-8539965
Download citation file: