Professor Zhang discusses her new book Anxious China: Inner Revolution and Politics of Psychotherapy. The breathless pace of China’s economic reform has brought about deep ruptures in socioeconomic structures and people’s inner landscape. Faced with increasing market-driven competition and profound social changes, more and more middle-class urbanites are turning to Western-style psychological counseling to grapple with their mental distress. This talk is an overview and open discussion of Zhang’s newly published book--an in-depth ethnographic account of how an unfolding “inner revolution” is reconfiguring selfhood, psyche, family dynamics, sociality, and the mode of governing in post-socialist times. Zhang shows that anxiety—broadly construed in both medical and social terms—has become a powerful indicator for the general pulse of contemporary Chinese society. It is in this particular context that Zhang traces how a new psychotherapeutic culture takes root, thrives, and transforms itself across a wide-range of personal, social, and political domains.
Li Zhang is Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Davis. She is the author of two award-winning books: Strangers in the City and In Search of Paradise, and the co-editor of Privatizing China, Socialism from Afar and Can Science and Technology Save China?