Past Event

Lan Li - Building Bodies on Paper: The Curiosity of Meridians & Neurophysiology

November 28, 2018
6:00 PM - 8:00 PM
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NYU Gallatin, 1 Washington Place, Room 801, New York, NY 10003

The healing arts in East Asia display a wealth of body maps depicting lines that guided diagnostic and therapeutic practice. Scholars often debated whether to discursively interpret these lines as meridians, channels, or tracts; practitioners often debated whether these lines merely visualized nerves to articulate needling and heating practices. Yet, these debates each took for granted the process of representing experience and imagination in medical practice. To reframe these debates, this talk considers body maps as an alternative history of representation, arguing that hand-drawn maps served as a kind of sensory technology. They traced sensations that remained unseen until inscribed on paper. A close study of body maps allows us to understand the range of medical practices and theories that remained multiple and contingent. They raise questions of hybridity, translocality, and ontology, which appeared as stable forms of representation, but marked shifting conceptions about the body.

Born to Chinese conservatory graduates, Lan A. Li grew up in Los Angeles surrounded by art, music, and traffic. Now a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University, Lan is interested in comparing social, cultural, epistemological, and personal narratives that shape how different historical and contemporary actors make sense of health and disease. Dedicated to communicating these narratives through a range of medium, Lan’s work as a documentary filmmaker has led to collaboration with practitioners in China, India, Brazil, and the United States.