Breathing Spaces

Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China

Nancy N. Chen

Columbia University Press

Breathing Spaces

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Pub Date: June 2003

ISBN: 9780231128056

256 Pages

Format: Paperback

List Price: $36.00£27.00

Pub Date: June 2003

ISBN: 9780231128049

256 Pages

Format: Hardcover

List Price: $105.00£78.00

Pub Date: June 2003

ISBN: 9780231502214

256 Pages

Format: E-book

List Price: $35.99£27.00

Breathing Spaces

Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China

Nancy N. Chen

Columbia University Press

The charismatic form of healing called qigong, based on meditative breathing exercises, has achieved enormous popularity in China during the last two decades. Qigong served a critical social organizational function, as practitioners formed new informal networks, sometimes on an international scale, at a time when China was shifting from state-subsidized medical care to for-profit market medicine. The emergence of new psychological states deemed to be deviant led the Chinese state to "medicalize" certain forms while championing scientific versions of qigong. By contrast, qigong continues to be promoted outside China as a traditional healing practice. Breathing Spaces brings to life the narratives of numerous practitioners, healers, psychiatric patients, doctors, and bureaucrats, revealing the varied and often dramatic ways they cope with market reform and social changes in China.

For readers sometimes puzzled by recent mind-body movements in China and responses by central and regional governments, Chen's clear and scholarly presentation will prove most helpful. This book becomes even more important now that the movement and others like it have spread globally, including to Europe, the New World, and the US. Highly recommended.

Choice

The book's originality lies both in its focus on the medicalization process and psychiatry, and in a theoretically innovative approach based on the medicalization process and psychiatry, and in a theoretically innovative approach based on the concepts of body politics and spaces....Breathing Spaces is incontestably a very valuable contribution to medical anthropology and religious studies in the context of Chinese culture, and to global cultural studies.

Evelyne Micollier, Journal of Chinese Religions

Before there was Falun Gong, there was qigong psychosis; and before that qigong was a traditional healing methodology and health enhancing practice. Nancy Chen tells the whole story, along the way connecting masters and practitioners of breathing techniques and meditation to the major cultural, political, economic, and moral transformations that China has undergone in the last several decades of economic change. But Chen's interesting and useful account is also a story of psychiatry and globalization, making for a rich and bubbling hot pot of ideas, practices, and embodied experience.

Arthur Kleinman, Harvard University

Chen's riveting study focuses on a remarkable period in China's recent history, marked by this nation's recent reengagement with global capitalism. Chen bears witness to the shifting political significance—and vulnerability—of spiritual practitioners and healers in China, exposing how such shifts affect human experiences with enlightenment, pain, and suffering. Vivid portraits of the author's encounters render this a truly moving, poetic ethnography written in the best tradition of critical medical anthropology.

Lesley Sharp, Barnard College, Columbia University
Preface
1. Introduction
2. Fever
3. Riding the Tiger
4. Qigong Deviation or Psychosis
5. Chinese Psychiatry and the Search for Order
6. Mandate of Science
7. Transnational Qigong
8. Suffering and Healing
Glossary

About the Author

Nancy N. Chen is associate professor of anthropology at the University of California, Santa Cruz. A medical anthropologist, she also teaches courses on food, ethnographic film, urban anthropology, China, and Asian Americans.