Animal Histories in Human Health: Comparative Perspectives from East Asia, 1850-1950

26 to 27 March 2015
Room 404, 4F, Run Run Shaw Tower, Centennial Campus, The University of Hong Kong

 conference poster

Despite the importance of animals as economic and ritual resources in human societies across East Asia, little comparative and cross-cultural study has been made of animals in the region. This project brings a new focus on animals in East Asian history, tracking changing attitudes to animals within the context of scientific and technological developments between 1850 and 1950. The project repositions animals at the centre of the histories of human health and medicine, with a particular focus on how animals have been understood in relation to evolving attitudes to the natural world and the management of the environment.

The project addresses such issues as: How have different health traditions striven to integrate approaches to human and animal health? What historical precedents have shaped twentieth-century concerns for an integrated medicine (‘One Health’)? The aim is to consider the role of animals in the promotion of ‘hygienic modernity’ in East Asia; animal experimentation and the rise of laboratory science; animals and vaccination; animals and war; and the transnational circulation of animals within empire.

The project draws upon and endeavors to bridge a diverse animal historiography, ranging from studies of animals in colonial settings, to the role of animals in Traditional Chinese Medicine (TCM), and the importance of animals as carriers of infectious disease and parasitic agents in late nineteenth-century biomedicine. Particular attention is paid to China and to transfers of knowledge within colonial East Asia, including Indonesia, the Philippines, Indochina, Hong Kong, and Taiwan. In a broader sense, the project provides a much-needed historical vantage for reflecting on the contemporary convergence of human and animal health. At the same time, it aims to develop a cross-disciplinary dialogue, integrating the history of medicine with animal and environmental histories.

* The Conference is supported by the Faculty Conference Grant Scheme through the Faculty of Arts at HKU.

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