In 2015 and 2016, the Institute worked with Harvard-Yenching Institute, the Institute of Medical Humanities and Center for History of Medicine at Peking University, as well as the Key Research Institute of Social History of China at Nankai University to organize training workshops for graduate students and young scholars in the field of humanities and medicine in China.
Shifting away from the Needham question, the study of the history science, technology and medicine (STM) has increasingly focused on the process of construction, production, circulation, and appropriation of knowledge and practices in specific historical and cultural contexts. This new approach not only challenges deeply entrenched ideas about the autonomy of science and technology but encourages the development of creative inter-disciplinary strategies to tackle the interplay between STM and society, politics and culture as well. Taking this approach, the study of STM in the humanities and social sciences becomes relevant not only to history but also to contemporary life.
The objective of this two-year collaboration was to introduce to Asian students new theories, themes, and approaches in the specific field of humanities and medicine in the modern period. As much of the innovative literature in this rapidly developing field is in English or other Western languages that are not easily accessible to young scholars in parts of Asia, this project invited participants to reflect on the complex but unique nexus of modernity/medicine (as knowledge and as institution) in Asian society. Two broad themes — “Circulation of medical knowledge/practices past and present” and “Indigenous medical knowledge and biomedicine: interaction and accommodation in Asian societies” — were identified, and the workshops involved senior scholars of the field in various disciplines interacting with a selected number of graduate students and young scholars in lectures and seminars on topics related to the chosen themes.