Li Zhang, "Anxious China: Inner Revolution and Politics of Psychotherapy" (U California Press, 2020)

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The breathless pace of China’s economic reform has brought about deep ruptures in socioeconomic structures and people’s inner landscape. Faced with increasing market-driven competition and profound social changes, more and more middle-class urbanites are turning to Western-style psychological counseling to grapple with their mental distress. Anxious China: Inner Revolution and Politics of Psychotherapy (University of California Press, 2020) offers an in-depth ethnographic account of how an unfolding “inner revolution” is reconfiguring selfhood, psyche, family dynamics, sociality, and the mode of governing in post-socialist times. Li Zhang shows that anxiety—broadly construed in both medical and social terms—has become a powerful indicator for the general pulse of contemporary Chinese society. It is in this particular context that Zhang traces how a new psychotherapeutic culture takes root, thrives, and transforms itself across a wide range of personal, social, and political domains.

Suvi Rautio is a Course Lecturer at the University of Helsinki. As an anthropologist, her research seeks to deconstruct the social orderings of marginalized populations living in China to reveal the layers of social difference that characterize the nation today. She can be reached at suviprautio@gmail.com

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