In lieu of an abstract, here is a brief excerpt of the content:

  • Making and Mapping Psy Sciences in East and Southeast Asia
  • Harry Yi-Jui Wu (bio) and Wen-Ji Wang (bio)

The rich history of psy disciplines or psy sciences (psychology, psychiatry, psychotherapy, psychoanalysis) in modern society has been subject to different and sometimes conflicting interpretations. Major events, theories, and figures have been recorded and the meaning of their contributions explored to illustrate the ways in which various forms of psychological knowledge become important sources of self-understanding and self-actualization. Insights into the social and cultural history of psy sciences enable us to understand the interconnection between forms of knowledge and the social order to which they relate (Eghigian et al. 2007; Engstrom 2008). From a more radical perspective, Michel Foucault has famously written histories of rising human sciences so as to identify the construction of the self in relationship to the operation of the power/knowledge matrix since the nineteenth century. In Psychiatric Power (2006), for instance, he associates the development of psychology, criminology, and psychopathology to the functioning of disciplinary mechanisms in modern society. As he explains, the “psy-function was the discourse and the establishment of all the schemas for the individualization, normalization, and subjection of individuals within disciplinary systems” (85).

Following both the Foucauldian genealogical tradition and the aesthetic turn in the French philosopher’s later thought, the British sociologist Nikolas Rose brings into sharper relief the intricate connection between the proliferation of psy disciplines and the changes in governmentality and subjectification. In an era that values democracy and individual autonomy, a variety of new ways of understanding and relating to techniques of self have been invented, which have also become the inescapable means through which modern selves can be realized. Rose (1998) believes that the contemporary regulative ideal of the self can be “destabilized” and “denaturalized” by historical investigations into the mechanism of self invention.

Rose (1998: 11) makes clear that the regime of the self embodied in the explosion of Western psy sciences since the late nineteenth century is closely linked with [End Page 109] “transformations in the exercise of political power in contemporary liberal democracies.” This historical acuity consequently raises conceptual and political questions concerning the growth of psy sciences in the non-Western contexts, especially if one takes into account the roles played by, for instance, cross-cultural interactions of dissimilar knowledge systems and the complexities of colonialism and globalization during the process (Ernst 2003). The four articles in this special issue can therefore be deemed one of the recent attempts to continue this historiographical task and explore some of the emerging agendas related to the development of psy sciences in the East and Southeast Asian contexts.

1 Recent Historiography of Psy Sciences in East and Southeast Asia

Before an introduction to the main themes of this special issue, recent development in English-language scholarship on the history of psy sciences in East and Southeast Asia is briefly reviewed with the aim of better positioning our research project. Yet, because one of the main concerns of the four articles is the ways in which emotional and mental disturbances have been conceptualized and managed in these specific social and cultural contexts, the following review puts more emphasis on historical studies of psychiatry and psychotherapy.

Given the fact that psychiatry and other psy sciences were, at least in their nascent stages, predominantly Western inventions, the history of the transfer of these bodies of knowledge and practice to other cultural settings remains a constant subject of interest. Key individuals, events, ideas, practices, and institutions in this process of transfer and interaction therefore have been subject to historical analysis (Blowers 2004; Rose 2012). For instance, Nancy Chen (1999) analyzes the meticulous translation exercises of modern psychiatry in China as a quest for modernity. She illustrates how medical terminologies, categories of mental disorders, and special orders in psychiatry are linked to the contexts of translation in which meanings and practices are adopted and utilized. Peter Szto (2014) uses the concept of “accommodation” to illustrate the design of the first psychiatric asylum in China in relation to its US predecessors. In addition, the shape of Chinese psychiatry in the first half of the twentieth century is said to...


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pp. 109-120
Launched on MUSE
Open Access
Archive Status
Archived 2021
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