Sandra Hyde: Contemporary Chinese Hyper-urbanization and its Mental Health Consequences: Rethinking Small-Scale… (ASI 2016)

Contemporary Chinese Hyper-urbanization and its Mental Health Consequences: Rethinking Small-Scale Therapeutic Communities as Spaces for Drug Rehabilitation

Sandra Hyde, McGill University

I begin this paper by laying out a social epidemiology of China’s economic rise and its implications for mental health. I then focus in on China’s largely unexplored illegal drug crisis. Until the late 1990s, all Chinese drug addicts were treated as criminals and placed in either the justice system’s drug prisons or in labor camps. In the millennium, while the drug prison and the labor camp still exist, there is a small group of psychiatrists and AIDS activists who want to embrace what Foucault labeled the humanism of the asylum by providing clinical residential care to allow drug addicts to heal their addictions. As such there are two competing ideologies on controlling drug epidemics in China, the dominant one is punitive and the other therapeutic; however, within these two ideological positions, there remains a massive disjuncture between the reality of everyday life and official policy. In an effort to rethink mental health care in light of China’s massive internal migration and displacement, and its hyper-urbanization policies, how do health GONGOs manage rising rates of drug addiction? Here I am thinking at the intersection of subjectivity and the social-psychological dimensions of individual and collective lives in the onslaught of Chinese globalization, or planetization. I ask one: how do Chinese users of illegal street drugs learn to reform their emotions in an effort to rethink the modern Chinese healthy citizen? And two, thinking programmatically how does one write a clinical ethnography of a therapeutic community contemporary China? If Sunlight is a clinical space that rises and falls within a particular set of institutions and ideas that travel across the globe — behavior modification, AA/Narcotics Anonymous, Mind/Body treatments, abstinence — what do these modalities say about how ‘a complicated kindness’ travels across the globe? All of the therapeutic concepts that take root at Sunlight have travelled across global spaces both physical and metaphorical to reach Chinese psychiatrists, peer educators and former addicts. I end by problematizing the conditions and practices within Sunlight TC, where finding a new kind of post-millennial citizen in a highly urbanized world.

Sandra Teresa Hyde is an Associate Professor at McGill University in the Department of Anthropology; an Associate Fellow in the Departments of East Asian Studies in the Faculty of Arts and Social Studies of Medicine in the Faculty of Medicine. She is also affiliated with the Institutes for Gender, Sexuality and Feminism and the Institute for the Study of International Development in Arts, and Global Health and Global Mental Health in Medicine. Her current project is a manuscript titled – Chasing the Dragon: Chinese Market Socialism, Psychosociability and the Malleable Addict – that is based on six years of research in the first therapeutic residential drug treatment center in China. She has published two books, the first, Eating Spring Rice: The Cultural Politics of AIDS in Southwest China (2007), and, the second, Postcolonial Disorders (2008), co-edited with Mary-Jo DelVecchio Good, Sarah Pinto and Byron Good. She has also published articles in a wide range of journals from Public Health to Philosophy.

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