Governing “secrecy” in medical modernity: knowledge power and the mi-yi outlaws

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Abstract: This paper pursues the genealogies of mi-yi (secret doctors) as a threshold figure to attend to the questions of state-mediated governance and knowledge power concerning medical modernity in postwar Taiwan. To consider the mi-yi figure as symptomatic of Taiwan's medical modernity, I inquire into the question of how the scientific discourse of modernity as purported by the class of medical professionals converges with state power to discipline and regulate medical subjects and practices vis-à-vis the discourse of mi-yi. To this end, I analyze the anti-mi-yi discourse that emerged since the 1950s to discuss how the modern medical profession employed a language of science, rationality, and security that initiated an extended state surveillance of unregulated medical subjects and practices. The second part of the essay reads Chen Yingzhen's novella, Zhao Nandong as part of Taiwan's medical “archives” to explore the politics of embodied medical labor as a situated instance of the contradictions of medical modernity. I situate the literary imagination of Zhao Nandong in the social context of mi-yi discourse to frame the erased labor and violence, the ways in which the histories of these labors have been doubly obscured by the conflation of nationalistic historiography and positivist knowledge production of sociological categorizations of Taiwan's modernity.

Original languageEnglish
Pages (from-to)227-243
Number of pages17
JournalInter-Asia Cultural Studies
Issue number2
StatePublished - 3 Apr 2015


  • governance
  • knowledge power
  • life and labor politics
  • medical modernity
  • mi-yi
  • secrecy
  • the law


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