“Health Care for the People”: an Ecological Analysis of the Barefoot Doctor Program during China’s Cultural Revolution

Chang Liu, The New School for Social Research

During China’s Cultural Revolution (1966-1976), a large number of lay medical workers—the “barefoot doctors”—were trained and worked in the rural areas as “semi-doctors.” The “barefoot doctors” program, often seen as a unique socialist “paradigm for basic health care provision” (Bien 2008: 5), has drawn much attention from historians (Fang 2012; Pang 2017). However, less research has taken an ecological institutional analysis of the history of the development of the barefoot doctor program as part of the rural healthcare system during China’s Cultural Revolution. Drawing on the model of “boundary objects” proposed by Star and Griesemer (1989), this paper takes an ecological approach to investigate the cooperative work among the “alliance” of the heterogeneous participants of the barefoot doctor program, with a focus on two boundary objects — A Barefoot Doctors’ Manual, and the representation of “barefoot doctors”.

See paper

 Presented in Session 60. From Traditional to High-Tech Approaches to Health