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Chasing snails : anti- schistosomiasis campaigns in the People's Republic of China


The 1950's schistosomiasis health campaign has been touted by China as one of its most successful attempts at eliminating an endemic disease, becoming a model for addressing current diseases such as SARS and Bird Flu. At the time this parasitic disease affected 10.6 million people with another 100 million at risk and occurred primarily in China's key rice growing regions. Based on reasons of military and economic security, the new Communist regime designated the campaign as a political, rather than a health campaign and promoted it as one of its earliest efforts at transformation of the rural environment. Although the campaign was hindered by lack of funding, material resources, technical and medical skills, and the recalcitrance of the putative participants - both villagers and local cadre; the Party was still able to use the campaign to realize beneficial goals and build positive connections at the bottom level. To understand the complex dynamics of resistance, assimilation, and attempts to assert authority played out against a background of impoverished resources and power struggles within the new regime, my project examines how the campaign unfolded in three case studies: a rural county in Jiangxi Province, a suburban county in Jiangsu Province, and in the urban environment of Shanghai. In particular, the project explores how the Party deployed scientific and medical aspects of the campaign to justify the selective disruption and reconstitution of local patterns of social life in order to consolidate power at the bottom level in the early years of Communist rule

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