Reforming disability in China : a study in disability and development
The thesis sits between three academic fields: disability studies, development studies and East Asian studies. It is an unusual but important study of disability in a nonwestern culture. The thesis is unusual because it explores macro-level (rather than grassroots) constructions of disability, focusing on institutions and ideologies. It is important because no-one has (to my knowledge) undertaken this kind of macro-level analysis on a developing country; and also (again, to my knowledge) because the story of the macro-level construction of disability in China has not been told before. In this thesis, evidence and arguments are put forward with reference to the historical construction of disability in imperial China (Chapter Three), in late Qing and early Republican China (Chapter Four) and in state socialist China under Mao Zedong (Chapter Five). These chapters explore the place of impairment in Confucian cosmologies; the imperial construction of an administrative category of disability; the influence of western ideas and institutions on internal Chinese debates about the body and nation; and the place of disability and disabled people in state socialist China. A hypothesis of a discourse of body, nation and development is developed, and continues through the next four chapters which focus on disability in post-Mao China. Chapter Six examines the unexpected appearance of disability on the national government’s agenda in the 1980s. Chapter Seven explores disability-related policies and their underpinning values. Also in Chapter Seven, three studies are provided which incorporate field-based data to inject some balance (from the “grassroots") into what is otherwise an intentionally imbalanced thesis. Chapter Eight analyses the content and implications of disability propaganda; Chapter Nine tackles the difficult subject of disability legislation, in which equal rights and eugenics appear to go hand in hand. The result is a study of disability and development - and of discourses of disability and development - which will inform current thinking and will provide important information on disability policies, provision and propaganda in post-Mao China.