Call for Abstracts – Edited Volume on Medical Culture in East Asian Cinema and Media

The current COVID-19 global pandemic has inspired renewed attention to the intersection between public health and mass media. With constant media updates of case counts, healthcare guidelines, and preventive strategies, among other public health communications, the boundaries of various imagined communities have been newly established or strongly reinforced. The complex cultural and geopolitical region of East Asia, in particular, has become a center of media attention, following wide circulation of essentialized cultural norms (such as collectivity and uniformity), stereotypical accounts of hygiene habits, racialized discourses surrounding the East Asian bodies, and techno-orientalist narratives of East Asian use of digital means for disease tracing and control. Both personal and public health outcomes thus have become inextricably intertwined with processes of representation and (re)mediation, while the pandemic itself has become a media event inseparable from various audiovisual forms. We are therefore living a historical moment that demands reflection on the precarious socio-political structures revealed through audiovisual media, including health care access and its relation to class, gender, and ethnic hierarchies.

Our edited volume seeks to contextualize such discussions in light of larger historical narratives regarding 20th and 21st century East Asia, with audiovisual media serving as our primary object of study. We welcome submissions that consider medical culture in relation to cinema and media culture in the East Asian context. We understand “medical culture” as a bio-cultural concept that encompasses not only scientific knowledge and practice but also such cultural domains as aesthetics, ethics, politics, and public policy. Some questions that concern us include: How does historical practice of health (in)justice, mediated by audiovisual media, inform our contemporary understandings of public health crises? How can audiovisual media disseminate information about the historical transformation of public health policies and facilitate collaboration and mutual understanding across local, national, and regional sectors in East Asia? How might East Asian case studies highlight the convergence of film and media theory with the medical humanities?

Editors Ling Zhang (SUNY Purchase College), Yuqian Yan (Washington University in St. Louis), and Pao-chen Tang (University of Manchester) invite submission of paper proposals on topics that may include but are not limited to the following. We especially welcome contributions that focus on Japan, South Korea, North Korea, and transregional East Asia.

  • traditional and modern medicines
  • personal hygiene, environmental sanitation, and ecological criticism
  • diseases caused by pollution, climate change, and environmental violence
  • medical theory and practice in relation to colonialism/decolonization and racism
  • medical science and technology (x-ray, microfilm, etc)
  • educational/scientific film, medical image-making
  • physical or mental therapy in/as media
  • medical institutions and practitioners, health care systems
  • medical practice in rural areas, distribution of medical resources
  • pandemics/epidemics
  • food and diet
  • disabilities and neurodiversity
  • the cult of youth and anxiety over aging
  • gender, sexuality, and medical culture

We plan to propose the edited volume to Hong Kong University Press for publication in their Crossings: Asian Cinema and Media Culture series. All submissions should be based on original research and not under consideration for publication elsewhere.

Please send your working title, institutional affiliation, abstract (of no more than 500 words), and short bio to by April 1st, 2021. The editorial team will notify selected proposals by April 30th, 2021. The deadline for first draft submission (between 7000 and 8000 words) is December 1st, 2021.