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Dr. Ellen Y. ZHANG

B.A. (Beijing Normal University), M.A. (People’s University of China), Ph.D. (Rice University)

Head and Associate Professor, Department of Religion and Philosophy

Funding:

  • Initiation Grant for Faculty Niche Research Areas, HKBU 
    HK$515,436

Introduction

  • This inter-departmental and interdisciplinary group project by five researchers within the Faculty of Arts will contribute to the development of the key subtheme of the FNRA (Well-Being, Values, and the Public Good), namely, Chinese and Cross-cultural Health Humanities. Specifically, the inquiry deals with questions regarding the metaphysics of pregnancy and motherhood, the understanding of physical disease and mental illness via literary representations, neurogenomics and the bioethical challenges on mind and mental formation, and cross-cultural translation and interpretation in the context of medical discourse. Theoretically, this project will contribute to philosophical and ethical questions in terms of body, mind, identity, self-ownership, health and well-being. Practically, the project proposes to conduct a series of workshops such as focus groups with pregnant women, to work with Buddhist meditative practitioners, and to conduct interviews with writers (especially female writers) who tell their personal stories about suffering from physical and mental illness.

    Health humanities is a growing academic field internationally, but it is still relatively new in Hong Kong. This interdisciplinary project will be a pioneering one not only in the Faculty of Arts but also in the University. Based on this project, we expect further collaboration with the College of Chinese Medicine, HKBU, and other scholars in the area outside Hong Kong. 

Abstract

  • This is an interdisciplinary and cross-cultural research project proposed by five faculty members from Department of Philosophy and Religion, Department of Chinese Language and Literature, and Department of English Language and Literature. The project focuses on the interrelationship between humanities and health and well-being. The concept of health (or illness) is studied in conjunction with the key theme of FNRA, i.e., well-being, values, and public good. Specifically, the concepts of health and well-being are studied in relation to (1) philosophy, religion, and applied ethics, (2) literary representations, (3) language and discourse analysis, and (4) gender studies. The project aims to seek novel ways of understanding health and illness in society, and how methods from the humanities may be brought to bear on ethics of biomedicine, clinical practice, and the politics of healthcare. 

    Specifically, the inquiry deals with questions regarding body (such as metaphysical and epistemological studies of pregnancy and motherhood, the understanding of physical disease and illness in traditional and contemporary literary works, and the cross-cultural definitions of health and well-being), mind and mental formation (such as mental illness and health, the impacts of meditative practice, and bioethical challenges in terms of neurogenomics and genetic engineering brought by biomedical technology), and cross-cultural translation and interpretations on medical language and discourses.

Methodology

  • Methodologically speaking, the project employs multiple methods that include textual and discourse analyses, philosophical and ethical inquiries, and gender studies. Meanwhile, the project combines conceptual analysis with empirical studies (such as conducting a series of workshops and focus group with pregnant women in Hong Kong, to work with Buddhist meditative practitioners dealing with health issues, and to conduct interviews with writers who tell their personal stories about suffering from physical and mental illness). The project seeks to generate impact activities and collect measurable impact beyond academia. Other impacts include publishing journal articles on research findings by sole-authors or co-authors. 

Interdisciplinary expertise

  • Philosophy, ethics, literature and literary representations, narrative therapy, language and discourse analysis.