Zhiying Ma
2011 SfAA Student Endowed Award Winner

endowed_ma.jpgI am a joint Ph.D. student in the Departments of Comparative Human Development and Anthropology at the University of Chicago. My research has long been concerned with issues of biopolitics and ethics in medicine, in particular psychiatry. My Master research addressed the question of why many patients with mental disorders and their families preferred to explain their illnesses in non-biomedical terms and sought help from alternative approaches rather than psychiatric professionals. Through participant observation and in-depth interviews in a female schizophrenia ward, I discovered that Chinese Medicine and folk religion helped patients and families to recuperate the social person and to reconstruct a socio-moral-cosmic world where they granted their lives meaning, reconceived normality, reclaimed agency, and resisted the individualization and pharmaceutical control brought by psychiatry.

Continuing to work on Chinese psychiatry, my dissertation research will focus on the national phenomenon that the family is sanctioned by law and psychiatric policies to be the foremost agent in hospitalizing a person against his/her will, but also in providing care to the patient. I will explore these practices’ influences on ethics of care, on human rights (rights to freedom and self-determination, as well as rights to appropriate healthcare), on intimacy and subjectivity, but also on the distribution of healthcare responsibilities among state, civil, and familial sectors.

I received my undergraduate degrees in Psychology and Philosophy from Peking University, China.