From somatisation to caregiving: the theoretical concerns in Kleinman’s medical anthropology

International Social Science Journal (Chinese Edition)

No.2, 2021


From somatisation to caregiving: the theoretical concerns in Kleinmans medical anthropology (Abstract)


Fei Wu


The essay is a description of academic achievements of Arthur Kleinman, a famous Harvard scholar and founder of modern medical anthropology, with focus on his theoretical concerns. Kleinman began his academic career in 1973 and set the fundmental directions for medical anthropology.  In Patients and Healers in the Context of Culture, his first ethnographic work, he elaborated some basic theories for cross-culturally comparative studies of medicines, especially the somatisationtheory. In Social Origins of Distress and Disease, he developed the theory further and conceptualised the moral subject. His subsequent work focused on theoretical explorations in social sufferingsand moral experiences, which were reflected in The Weight of the World. Thinking of the issues and his experiences lead his increasing attention to caregiving. A Passion for Society and The Soul of Care show his recent considerations, including his critique of the value-neutral principle in modern social sciences and his efforts for a new social science. Active engagement in social distress and caregiving are necessary meaning in the science.