Social researchers studying diseases frequently have to answer the question: How is this relevant to other people? “Other people,” of course, refers to those members of society who do not suffer from the disease being studied. For those who study diseases in non-Western contexts, “other people” may also include people in the West. To address the question, some researchers argue that medical knowledge reflects and reproduces power relations in society. Others examine the causes of disease and reveal that social factors shape health conditions in profound ways. Then there is Shao-Hua Liu, a medical anthropologist who tackles the expansion of leprosy prevention in socialist China. Liu spent more than ten years researching this public health movement, which was seldom discussed publicly before the 1980s and yet is unusual in its scale and influence. While there is a substantial amount of...

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