Talkbits on Civil War: The Body’s Disharmony

by Mei Zhan

In this installment of our ongoing series of audiovisual conversations on civil war,┬áMei Zhan considers our theme as a conceptual device in relationship to her work, past and present. Currently, Zhan is writing an ethnography on the invention of a new kind of classical Chinese medicine on the edges of the healthcare establishment in China. She examines how these experiments in thinking, doing and being aim to “bring medicine back to life” in entrepreneurial China. In this interview, we discuss the divisions among allopathic medicine, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM), and new biomedicine and the implications this has for civil society and, more distinctly, the body.


“Instead of adopting this kind of destructive approach to disease–‘to kill’ and ‘to conquer’–the question is how to approach health constructively […] When we talk about Chinese medicine, Eastern philosophy, we think about harmony, ‘peace and harmony.’ No–that’s not what it’s all about. That is an aspiration. You work all of your life towards that goal knowing that actually we always live in and live through disharmony […] If you want to call that war then it’s a civil war.”