Marta Hanson Visit

Prof. Marta Hanson '85 from Johns Hopkins University (currently Visiting Fellow, International Consortium for Research in the Humanities) visited Brown on April 23 & 24 and participated in a series of public talks.  Prof. Hanson's research interests span the following subjects in Chinese history: the history of Chinese science and medicine; history of epidemics and disease in China; conceptions of space, the body, native-place identity, and ethnicity; imperial, regional, and local traditions in Chinese medicine; the relationship between visual and textual representations in medical texts; the interaction between vernacular and elite medical knowledge; Chinese arts of memory related to hand mnemonics; and the social, cultural, and intellectual history of late imperial China.

Professor Marta Hanson: Chinese Hand Mnemonics, Chinese Arts of Memory in Religion, Science & Medicine
Monday, April 23, 2012
10:00 AM - 11:00 AM AND 3:00 PM - 4:00 PM (the same program was offered twice)
Science Center, 3rd floor Sciences Library
101-109 Waterman Street

Chinese authors included diagrams of hands with characters inscribed on them in their books, they used the hand as a "tu", a diagram, map, or illustration. In Chinese hand mnemonics, the natural lines of the palm side of fingers came to represent squares where characters were conveniently recalled. Hand mnemonics was found in most domains of knowledge—palmistry, religion, divination, mathematics, philosophy, music, poetry, medicine, and the law, used to predict the future and make medical prognoses. In this talk Professor Hanson will choose examples from religion, science, and medicine to illustrate the rich tradition of arts of memory in early modern Chinese history.

Visualizing the Geography of Diseases
Monday, April 23, 2012 
12:00 PM- 1:30 PM
**Location: 121 South Main Street, room 245 (Hemenway's Restaurant Building)
Lunch provided. 

From the beginning, medical mapping was not just a way of thinking but a way to visualize certain conceptions of knowledge. The earliest disease maps in Europe were statements in an argument, evidence furthering a specific case, and visualizations of possible causal relationships. On the one hand, disease incidence, and on the other hand, potential causes—the climate or weather, water and air quality, geological features such as elevation, waterways and mountains, or an unknown poison in the environment. Physicians used them for various functions in China from the 1870s, when they were first used to work out causal relationships, to the 1910s and 20s, when they were transformed for new political purposes. They were one of the most succinct ways to circulate complex syntheses of current medical knowledge. They also present a visual history of major changes in the conception of what was modern Western knowledge within China from the mid nineteenth-century peak of medical geography to the eventual victory of laboratory medicine by the early twentieth century. Over 50 maps of diseases in China were published from the 1870s to the 1920s. The earliest disease maps for China, like nineteenth-century vital statistics and Petri-dishes, made causal relations newly visible. During the 1910-20s, however, new kinds of maps of diseases in China functioned more to legitimate colonial and later Chinese state-populace relationships than to elucidate causal disease-agent ones. Finally, the first disease maps in vernacular Chinese were of the distribution of bubonic plague, pneumonic plague, cholera, and apoplexy in China and in the world. Published on public-health posters in the late 1920s, they attempted to convince a wary public of an entirely novel way of seeing epidemic disease, themselves, and their place in a newly globalizing world.

From Brown University to Chinese Medical History
Tuesday, April 24, 2012
12:00 PM - 1:00 PM
Science Center, 3rd floor Sciences Library
101-109 Waterman Street

Prof. Marta Hanson on her experience at Brown:

When I started at Brown University in the fall of 1981, I never imagined I would become a historian, much less a historian of late imperial China and Chinese medicine. All I knew at that time is that I wanted to continue studying the Chinese language, which I had started in 10th grade, and take basic science courses to fulfill pre-med requirements. But in my senior year I had to decide between chemistry or classical Chinese since they both met at the same time. I chose the 1-1 student-professor ratio of classical Chinese with Prof. David Lattimore over the 300-1 ratio of organic chemistry. I thought I could always fulfill the chemistry requirement during an intensive summer course. I also decided to take a year-long course in modern Chinese history with Prof. Jerome Grieder. Except for a year-long course in social science research and statistics for my major in Health and Society, for the first time I did not take any basic science courses. For Prof. Grieder’s course, I also decided to write an honor’s thesis on “Red versus Expert: The Politics of Medicine in Modern China.” These choices changed my vision of what was possible for me to do in the future leading me to a PhD in the History and Sociology of Science at the University of Pennsylvania and a career in Chinese Medical History.