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Part of Dr. Mark Pitner’s ongoing research into the concepts of disability in early China was presented during the Fall 2023 at the Western Branch meeting of the American Oriental Society at Portland State University.
In his talk, Pitner argued that the variety of Chinese words often translated as “humpback,” “hunchback,” and “bent-back” that described different conditions, didn’t fit easily within typical categories used by people in early imperial China. This had a range of implications for how the condition was understood in relation to the broader concept of disability in early China.
“This study is part of a broader movement to explore all aspects of history including the story of historically marginalized populations,” said Pitner. “How a culture speaks of and treats the whole of its population is as revealing, if not more revealing, than the story of those that the culture lionized.”
Pitner’s presentation was based on his paper, “The Story of Belabored Bodies in Early China: Hunchbacks, Humpbacks, Bent backs.” It is an extension of his chapter-length study that will be included in the upcoming reference volume, Other Bodies: Disability and Bodily Impairment in Early China, which will be published by Routledge in 2024.