Away/With the Pest: Hygienic Visuality and Narrations of Interspecies Encounters in Modern China

My dissertation, “Away/With the Pest” studies how the interactions of literary, scientific, and ideological storytelling reinvent the pest as a biomedical category, a cultural trope, and a political identity, and how this process reconfigures modern China’s biosocial relations. The human-pest relationship exists in the dynamic of what I call “biosocial abjection,” in which visual technologies serve as an apparatus of the revolutionary power that casts the hygienically impure in order to conceive the masses. I argue that the historical subject in collective forms, from the masses (大众) to the “people” (人民), from socialist children to post-socialist citizens, are constantly imagined with, through, and against the figure of the pest.

Table of Contents:

  • Introduction: The Clean, the Foul, and the Unexpected
  • Chapter 1: Minutiae, Masses, and Microbiology: Making Sense of Bacteria in the 1930s
  • Chapter 2: Bacterial Imaginations: Regime of the Microscope in the Anti-Germ Warfare Campaign
  • Chapter 3: Playing with the Pest: Visual Abjection and Elimination of the Four Pests
  • Chapter 4: The Art of Denunciation: New Four Pests and the Resurrection of Justice in the Trial of the Gang of Four
  • Conclusion: Biosocial Abjection and Subject Formation