Space, Illness, and An Alternative History of Modernity in Dr. Ma's Country Clinic

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2022
Authors
Wang, Nan
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Cong Feng’s 2007 documentary Dr. Ma’s Country Clinic presents the audience with a microcosm of the rural life in the town of Huangyangchuan, Gansu Province, located in the northwestern area of China. Centered on Doctor Ma, the only doctor in that area, and his daily life in his clinic, the camera stretches out to the patients’ families, the landscape of northwest China, the villagers’ migration, and the scenes of folk rituals. The various spaces presented in the film provide a unique perspective to reexamine the formation of illness in modern society, which calls into question the concept of “modern.” This paper examines the various spaces presented in the film which are interrelated with each other through the medium of illness, illustrates the way villagers establish and develop their social relations within the spaces, and sheds light on how those social relations are in contrast to or at least challenging the linear historical narrative of modernity. With Michel Foucault’s theory of biopolitics, this paper scrutinizes the mechanism of controlling the human body in modern society that leads to people’s illness and calls for a reevaluation of rural life which is considered to be an obsolete wasteland.
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Chinese documentary, biopolitics, illness, space, rural culture
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