The Disability Studies Workshop is proud to present:
PhD candidate, UChicago
Department of History
Reproducing Dependency: Blinded Veterans and Family Life in a Rehabilitation Camp during Wartime China, 1942-1945
Saieh Hall, Room 103
November 14th, 12:30-1:20
Light lunch will be provided. Please note the shorter-than-usual time.
Abstract: Towards the end of the War of Resistance Against Japan (1937-1945), China’s Nationalist government had established 32 rehabilitation camps in 10 provinces that housed over 70,000 military casualties. Managing this unprecedented number of wounded and disabled veterans in ways that reduced the economic burden on the wartime state became the primary goal for the national campaign to make “crippled but useful” (suican bufei) soldiers after their demobilization. Drawing from a historical sociological survey of one of the largest rehabilitation camps that housed about 500 blinded veterans and their dependents (wives, children) in Sichuan, the wartime Nationalist Great Rear Area (Dahoufang), this paper investigates how the war’s production of a sensory disability reshaped the relationship between veterans and the state. In the scheme of rehabilitation, war blindness became a corporeal asset for veterans to claim financial supports from the state as long as they followed the protocol of reconfiguring their injured body to fit the state’s demands of productivity. This included undergoing a mandatory process of training for industrial skills and written literacy, as well as participating in reclamation works in the military farms. In reality, however, the obligation of blinded veterans to support their families had driven them to engage in a variety of nonproductive and illicit activities (e.g. singing, fortune telling, gambling, opium smuggling) that deviated from the goal of rehabilitation and reproduced further dependency upon the state. Comparing the state’s remodeling of disability to fit the military-industrial system with individual investments in disability to meet familial responsibilities, I argue that wartime rehabilitation programs failed to strengthen the link between disabled veterans and the Nationalist welfare state.
There is no advance reading for this presentation. This is a work in progress, so please come prepared for a thoughtful discussion to offer Chao constructive critical feedback.
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All Disability Studies Workshop events are free and open to the public. Unless otherwise noted, events this quarter will be hosted in Saieh Hall, Room 103. Saieh 103 wheelchair accessible, though for navigational purposes, please note that it is on the west side of the building, down a long hallway (with a somewhat uneven tiled surface) from the accessible front entrance. An overall campus map is available here, and one focused on accessible entrances and exits to Saieh Hall is here. We are committed to making the workshop accessible; if there are accommodations that would be of use to you, please contact email@example.com or firstname.lastname@example.org.