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US-China Forum 2021: Addressing Inequality and Promoting Social Welfare

Zhiying Ma

Photo of Professor Zhiying Ma

Zhiying Ma

Assistant Professor, Crown Family School of Social Work, Policy, and Practice

Faculty Affiliate, Center for East Asian Studies and Center for the Study of Gender and Sexuality

The University of Chicago

Zhiying Ma is a cultural and medical anthropologist and a scholar of disability studies. Her work examines how cultural, politico-economic, and technological factors shape the design and implementation of social policies, and how national policies and global development initiatives in turn impact health in/equity, vulnerability, and rights, with a focus on contemporary China.

Ma's book project, tentatively titled, Intimate Institutions: Governance and Care Under the Mental Health Legal Reform in Contemporary China, examines families' involvement in the care and management of persons diagnosed with serious mental illnesses in China. The manuscript maps the workings of "biopolitical paternalism," a mode of governance that legitimizes the post-socialist state's population management as paternalistic intervention, and that displaces the paternalistic responsibilities onto the patients' families.

Ma has been conducting a new project on the (re-)emergence of community mental health in China. Here she focuses on ideologies of "community" in the country's ongoing social transformation and welfare reconstruction, dynamics between social services and population management, and processes of global knowledge translation. She has been working with stakeholders in China to develop a mental health peer support program using a community-based participatory research approach.

The third area of her research examines the lives and rights of people with disabilities in China, especially since the government's ratification of the United Nations’ Convention on the Rights of Persons with Disabilities in 2008. As a member of the Chinese disability community, she takes an action-oriented approach and works with local activists on a few smaller-scale projects in this area. She also works with local activists to study the life histories of generations of blind individuals, the experiences with sport and physical activities among young women with physical disabilities, and the needs of rural children with disabilities and their families, among others.

Ma holds a joint PhD in Comparative Human Development and Anthropology from the University of Chicago. She received her bachelor’s degree in psychology and philosophy from Peking University.