Howard Chiang

Associate Professor, Department of History, University of California, Davis

2019 to 2020
Research Fellow

Translators of the Soul: From the First Chinese Psychoanalyst to the Rise of Transcultural Psychiatry

This project seeks to rethink recent paradigms in the history of psychiatry by considering the importance of race and cultural competence in twentieth-century mental health science. The central goal of my research is to illuminate how Chinese and Western experts produced knowledge about the cultural underpinnings of mental illness, beginning with the work of the first Chinese psychoanalyst Dai Bingham (1899-1996) in Republican China, and culminating in the Western scientific classification of culture-bound syndromes and the cognate birth of transcultural psychiatry. This focus on transcultural mental health will highlight how Chinese people, while often the object of Western scientific study, also used science to further their own status and authority. The project will also attempt to re-evaluate the notion that “indigenous” non-Western ways of knowing were divorced from the making of psychiatric science in the West. Research activities will include travelling to specific archival collections in the U.S.