In The Invention of Madness, Emily Baum traces a genealogy of madness in early twentieth-century Beijing by examining the development of the Beijing Municipal Asylum—the first public asylum in China—and its subsequent transformation into the Beijing Psychopathic Hospital, administered by the famed Peking Union Medical College (PUMC). This institutional history is entangled with the city's social and demographic change (especially the pervasive poverty), the Guomindang's ascendance to power amid the country's unrest, and the rise of human sciences—including psychology and eugenics—across the globe. Rather than seeing madness as a singular, ahistorical object or treating psychiatry merely as a symbol of Western modernity, Baum argues that the meanings and practices of madness were “‘invented’ by a range of actors in ways unique to, and determined by, the specific needs and conditions of Beijing society itself” (p. 5).

Throughout the book, Baum smoothly weaves together stories of clinical encounters, family histories,...

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