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Bodies of Difference

Experiences of Disability and Institutional Advocacy in the Making of Modern China

Matthew Kohrman (Author)

Available worldwide

Paperback, 302 pages
ISBN: 9780520226456
May 2005
$34.95, £27.00
Other Formats Available:
Bodies of Difference chronicles the compelling story of disability's emergence as an area of significant sociopolitical activity in contemporary China. Keenly attentive to how bodies are embedded in discourse, history, and personal exigency, Matthew Kohrman details ways that disability became a fount for the production of institutions and identities across the Chinese landscape during the final decades of the twentieth century. He looks closely at the creation of the China Disabled Persons' Federation and the lives of numerous individuals, among them Deng Pufang, son of China's Communist leader Deng Xiaoping.
List of Illustrations


1. A Biomythography in the Making
2. Why Ma Zhun Doesn’t Count
3. Building a Corporate Body
4. Speeding Up Life in Beijing
5. Troubled Sociality: The Federation-Canji Relationship
in Wenchang County
6. Dis/ablement and Marriage: Ridiculed Bachelors, Ambivalent Grooms


Matthew Kohrman is Associate Professor of Cultural and Social Anthropology at Stanford University.
“Compelling book.” “Offers a comprehensive account of disability as both a powerfully embodied experience and a locus of meaning-making, interconnected with emerging bio-bureaucracies and like the Disabled Persons’ Federations’s achievements and pointing out its limitations. The result is a carefully written volume which examines disability as a sphere both of existence and sociopolitical formation.”—Anna Lora-Wainwright - University of Oxford The China Journal
“A ‘multi-sited’ ethnography . . . handled with great insight, dexterity and theoretical astuteness . . . anyone with an interest in modern china, (physical) disability, embodiment, institutional formation, or biobureaucracy will gain much from reading this book.”—Anthropological Quarterly
"Kohrman reveals to us, with a keen ethnographic eye and subtle prose, the emergent world of disabilities in China. His analysis of identity and bureaucracy is fascinating. And his discussion of how bodies, particularly men’s bodies, inform the biopolitics of disablement is riveting."—Paul Rabinow, Professor of Anthropology, UC Berkeley, author of Anthropos Today: Reflections on Modern Equipment

"Throughout this path-breaking book, Kohrman illustrates the importance of examining disability in relation to modernity, state-building, and bodily experiences. His ethnography is rich in historical detail, penetrating in analysis, and movingly attentive to the vicissitudes of people's lives. Above all, it is timely."—Jing Jun, Professor of Sociology and Public Policy, Tsinghua University

"Kohrman has produced an invaluable anthropological contribution to disability studies, combining adroit analyses of biopolitics with an ethnographic sensibility to gender, embodiment, and biography. Whether deconstructing statistics, investigating the advent of motorized tricycles for male polio survivors, or ferreting out truth-in-advertising amidst marriage arrangements, Bodies of Difference helps us glean in new ways how state-making, suffering, and human agency generate one another."—Rayna Rapp, Professor of Anthropology, NYU, Author, Testing Women, Testing the Fetus

"Bodies of Difference is a breath of fresh air in this tremendously important arena of medical anthropology. Kohrman writes clearly and gracefully. His scholarship is evident on every page."—Linda S. Mitteness, Professor of Medical Anthropology, UCSF

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