This article focuses on the psychotherapy debate in China that was triggered by the country’s mental health legislation. Seeing the release of the draft Mental Health Law in 2011 as a “diagnostic event” (Moore in Am Ethnol 14(4):727–736, 1987), I examine the debate in order to unravel the underlying logic and ongoing dynamics of the psycho-boom that has become a conspicuous trend in urban China since the early 2000s. Drawing on my fieldwork in Beijing and Shanghai, I use the two keywords of the debate—“jianghu” (literally “rivers and lakes”), an indigenous term that evokes an untamed realm, and “profession,” a foreign concept whose translation requires re-translation—to organize my delineation of its contours. I describe how anticipation of state regulation prompted fears and discontents as well as critical reflections and actions that aimed to transform the field into a profession. The efforts to mark out a professional core against the backdrop of unruly jianghu further faced the challenge of an alternative vision that saw popularization as an equally noble cause. The Mental Health Law came into effect in 2013; ultimately, however, it did not introduce substantive regulation. Finally, I discuss the implications of this debate and the prospects of the psycho-boom.
"Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry" – Springer Journals
Published: Sep 25, 2017
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