Current Lectureship

Reality, Reason, and Action In and Beyond Chinese Medicine

These lectures draw on the science and practice of Chinese medicine to address enduring and troublesome ontological, epistemological, and ethical questions. Chinese medicine has often been taken to be “mystical” or superstitious, and its efficacy has been seen as a matter of naive faith. By contrast, the lectures consider how the modern, rationalized, and scientific field of traditional Chinese medicine constructs its very real objects (bodies, symptoms, drugs), how experts think through and sort out pathology and health (yingyang, right qi/wrong qi, stasis, flow), and how contemporary doctors act responsibly to humanistic ethical ends, “seeking out the root” of bodily disorder. As we better understand the myriad things of classic Chinese metaphysics (Lecture 1), see how doctors discern actionable patterns (Lecture 2), and appreciate the ethics of medicine’s modern humanism (Lecture 3), tradition and modernity, East and West, collapse. Systematic Chinese medicine, no longer superstitious or a pseudo-science, can become a philosophical ally and a rich resource for a more capacious science.

Judith Farquhar 

Judith Farquhar is an American anthropologist who studies traditional medicine, popular culture, and everyday life in contemporary China. She has published papers focusing on a diverse range of anthropological areas, including medical anthropology, the anthropology of knowledge and of embodiment, critical theory and cultural studies, and the theories of reading, writing, and translation. Professor Farquhar is the Max Palevsky Professor Emerita in the Department of Anthropology and the College at the University of Chicago, and also serves as the Faculty Director at the University of Chicago Center in Beijing. Before arriving at the University of Chicago, she taught at McGill University and the University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill. She has been invited to give lectures and presentations around the world at universities in China, Australia, Hong Kong, and throughout the United States.

Professor Farquhar’s most recent book, Ten Thousand Things: Nurturing Life in Contemporary Beijing (2012) offers a detailed and scholarly exploration of the contemporary life in Beijing and beyond. The book examines the diverse ways of life adopted by contemporary residents of Beijing and how they manage their personal well-being. Her anthropological approach to studying the many facets of contemporary Chinese culture has made significant contributions to the field of anthropological medicine and, more generally, East-Asian studies.

Lecture Schedule


Reality, Reason, and Action In and Beyond Chinese Medicine

September 19, 2017, 4:30 p.m.

The Myriad Things

Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street

September 26, 2017, 4:30 p.m.

Discerning Patterns 

Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street

September 27, 2017, 4:30 p.m.

Humanity as Root

Whitney Humanities Center, 53 Wall Street