Sociocultural Anthropology, Medical/ Cultural Pluralism, Modern China, Gender & Power


Dr. Sydney White grew up in Hana, Maui, Hawai’i, received her B.A. in Anthropology from Bryn Mawr College in 1979, and her Ph.D. in Medical Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley in 1993. Her scholarly work on the politics of medical knowledges and cultural identities in Maoist and post-Mao China has been rooted in a long-term research relationship with the People’s Republic of China (PRC) which began in 1981. Dr. White’s Yunnan Province-based research in both Lijiang and Kunming has served as the foundation for numerous publications on a range of topics related to medicine, identity, and power in the Chinese state. These include the following: the embodied politics of gender and ethnicity among the Naxi of the Lijiang basin, the politics of rural versus urban residence in shaping post-1949 Naxi cultural citizenships, the dramatic transfor mations in rural PRC health care during both the Maoist and post-Mao periods, the epistemological contours of the rural PRC practice of “integrated Chinese and Western medicine” (zhongxiyi jiehe) and the hegemony of Chinese medical knowledges over “Western medicine” (xiyi) that these reveal, the role of the “medicine of systematic correspondence” (Confucian medicine) in the “civilizing” and citizenship projects of the Chinese imperial, Republican, and socialist states–particularly the post-1949 scientized narrative of Chinese medicine (zhongyi) of the socialist Chinese state, the distinctive contours of narratives of socialist Chinese modernity reflected by shifts in Maoist and post-Mao medical and minority policies, the changing faultlines of stigmatized categories of cultural identity as revealed through the unfolding of the HIV/ AIDS epidemic in Yunnan over the past twenty years, the political-economy of ethnicity for the Naxi of the Lijiang basin—with an emphasis on Maoist and post-Mao transformations, and encompassing the impact of massive-scale ethnic tourism on Lijiang over the past decade and a half. As a sociocultural medical anthropologist, Dr. White has always used the politics of medicine and identity in the context of the U.S. state as a comparative touchstone for her work on the Chinese state. Since coming to Temple as a faculty member in 1993, Dr. White has provided extensive service to the College of Liberal Arts, to the University, and to the profession of anthropology. She has also provided extensive mentoring of undergraduate and graduate students, having supervised fifteen PhD students, and having served on the PhD committees of twenty-five other graduate students over the past twenty years.

Selected Publications

  • 1997 “Fame and Sacrifice: The Gendered Construction of Naxi Identities.” Modern China 23(3): 298-327 (July).
  • 1998a “State Discourses, Minority Policies, and the Politics of Identity in the Lijiang Naxi People’s Autonomous County,” Nationalism and Ethnic Politics 4(1&2): 9-27. Special Issue: “Nationalism and Ethnoregional Identities in China.” Spring/Summer 1998.
  • 1998b “From ‘Barefoot Doctor’ to ‘Village Doctor’ in Tiger Springs Village: A Case Study of Rural Health Care Transformations in Socialist China,” Human Organization 57(4): 1-9. Winter 1998.
  • 1999 “Deciphering ‘Integrated Chinese and Western Medicine’ in the Rural Lijiang Basin: State Policy and Local Practice(s) in Socialist China.” Social Science and Medicine 49 (10): 1333-1347.
  • 2001 “Medicines and Modernities in Socialist China: Medical Pluralism, Naxi Identities, and the State in the Lijiang Basin.” In Healing Powers: Traditional Medicine, Shamanism, and Science in Contemporary Asia, Linda H. Connor and Geoffrey Samuel, eds., Bergin and Garvey. Pp. 171-194.
  • 2002 “Town and Village Naxi Identities in Southwest China’s Lijiang Basin.” In China Off Center: Mapping the Margins of the Middle Kingdom, Susan D. Blum and Lionel M. Jensen, eds., University of Hawaii Press. Pp. 131-147.
  • 2003 “Lijiang Naxi,” Encyclopedia of Medical Anthropology, edited by Carol and Melvin Ember. Human Relations Area Files, Yale University: Kluwer/ Plenum.
  • 2010 “The Political Economy of Ethnicity in Yunnan’s Lijiang Basin,” The Asia-Pacific Journal of Anthropology, Vol. 11, No. 2, June 2010, pp. 142-158.

Book manuscripts under revision

  • Narrating Chinese Socialist Modernities: Medical Knowledges, Public Health, and Lijiang Naxi Embodied Citizenships
  • Locating Lijiang and Shuhe: Naxi Cultural Citizenship and the Urban-Rural Divide in the People’s Republic

Courses Taught

Current - Religion

  • Asian Behavior and Thought (Gen Ed)
  • Race and Poverty in the Americas (Gen Ed)
  • Chinese Religions: Confucius to Mao
  • I-Ching, Taoism, and Ch'an/ Zen
  • Healing and Religion (graduate)
  • Ethnography in Theory and Practice (graduate)

Previous - Anthropology

  • World Regions and Cultures (Gen Ed)
  • Fundamentals of Cultural Anthropology
  • Anthropology of Globalization
  • History of Anthropological Theory (cross-listed grad/ undergrad)
  • Medical Anthropology (cross-listed grad/ undergrad)
  • Anthropology of the Body (cross-listed grad/ undergrad)
  • Anthropology of Chinese Medicines (cross-listed grad/ undergrad)
  • Anthropology of Public Health, Biomedicine, and Science & Technology Studies (cross-listed grad/ undergrad)
  • Anthropology of Modern China
  • Gender Theory (cross-listed with Women's Studies; grad/ undergrad)
  • Nationalisms, Ethnicities, & Sexualities (grad/ undergrad)

Previous - Asian Studies

  • Introduction to East Asia: China