This project focuses on interdisciplinary humanities research of hygiene and health. We believe that hygiene and health are not merely matters of progress in medicinal technology, nor can they be simply reduced to economical calculations of population productivity. We believe that hygiene and health represent a common evolution of knowledge, systems, technology, and material conditions throughout the course of history over different regions, and are affected by various political, economic, social, and cultural factors, thus further complicating the humanities research of hygiene. Conflicts of modernity, such as nation versus individual, control versus resistance, and equality versus efficiency, all play themselves out on the stage of health systems. Furthermore, as modern society has become a global village, the issues of health and hygiene in a single nation often have international consequences. Such being the case, we target East Asia, a region possessing a shared colonial historical context, as our research area in order to discuss various health issues such as food safety, maternal and child health, environmental health issues presented by pollution, and labor hygiene in relation to occupational hazards and work environment in these societies.
This project originated from the project themed “The Ideas, Organization, and Practice of Hygiene in Han-Chinese Societies from the Ming and Qing Dynasties to the Modern Periods” sponsored by the Academia Sinica from January 2002 to December 2004. After the original project ended, it transformed into a research unit at the Center for Humanities and Social Sciences. Following research focused on health issues in Han-Chinese societies from the Ming and Qing dynasties to the early 1950s, discussing the development of views on hygiene from traditional to modern times, concentrating on how the advent of modern biomedicine and the colonial experience changed ideas of hygiene and their practice in Han-Chinese societies.