Beyond “Revolutionary Humanitarianism”: Chinese Doctors in South Sudan

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The transnational movement of medicines and medical professionals to post-war settings has given rise to various forms of caregiving, expertise and ethics. However, little is known about the broad range of actors and agents from the Global South engaging health and the body, beyond the spectacle of international NGOs such as Médecins Sans Frontières. My dissertation, entitled “Beyond ‘Revolutionary Humanitarianism’: Chinese Doctors in South Sudan,” analyzes the historical formation and contemporary reconfiguration of China’s longstanding medical programs in South Sudan. Through extended participant observation, semi-structured interviews, and archival research, I explore the role of medicine from China in South Sudan, a hybrid system that integrates aid and business. I argue that China’s medical interventions in conflict zones represent an assemblage of “regimes of living,” not only opening up possibilities for sustained care beyond global health agencies’ provision of emergency food and transitory medical campaigns, but also bringing about disparities in quality of life. Rooted in technological advancement rather than Christian tradition, China’s medical programs in Africa are producing a new form of everyday ethics, open to interrogation and debate on the ground. My research is in dialogue with literature on humanitarianism, biopolitics, and the anthropology of life. Focusing on bodily experience and medical expertise in a volatile setting, my project explores the new biopolitical landscape of present-day Africa, offering an alternative to the widely accepted logic and values of medical humanitarianism in places marked by “crisis” or “conflict.”





GONG, YIDONG (2019). Beyond “Revolutionary Humanitarianism”: Chinese Doctors in South Sudan. Dissertation, Duke University. Retrieved from


Dukes student scholarship is made available to the public using a Creative Commons Attribution / Non-commercial / No derivative (CC-BY-NC-ND) license.