Medical Humanities

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Pandemics in Mao’s China

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Pandemics in Mao’s China: Disease and Mobility between the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution

Fang Xiaopeng

This project explores the mobility of four disparate Chinese social groups— returning diaspora, urban residents, rural populations, and Red Guards—and how they related to the spread and control of the two pandemics between the Great Famine and the Cultural Revolution: El Tor cholera—the first global pandemic to affect China—and epidemic meningitis—the country’s most deadly pandemic after 1949. The project investigates how social control and pandemic control schemes strengthened each other in Mao’s China. It applies medical and political history to create a delicate social study of a previously unexplored aspect of socialist China in the early 1960s.