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Priscilla Song

Priscilla Song is an Associate Professor in the Centre for the Humanities and Medicine and the Department of History at the University of Hong Kong. She is a medical anthropologist working at the nexus of global health, science and technology studies, and China studies. She received her PhD and AM in Anthropology from Harvard University and her BA in Anthropology and Philosophy from Yale University.

Dr. Song’s research focuses on the social and ethical aspects of transnational biomedical technologies in urban China, where a changing political, economic and moral landscape is transforming health outcomes and reorganizing social relations on local and global scales.

Dr. Song’s first book, Biomedical Odysseys: Fetal Cell Experiments from Cyberspace to China (Princeton University Press 2017) , is an ethnographic account of the challenges of regulating experimental medical treatment in a globalized era, the ways in which digital communication technologies are transforming patient activism in both China and the U.S., and the unintended consequences of Chinese healthcare reforms. The book received the 2018 Francis Hsu Book Prize from the Society for East Asian Anthropology, a section of the American Anthropological Association.

Dr. Song’s current research goes beyond the pursuit of curative medicine to examine what happens when biomedical technologies are no longer able to restore health. She received a million HK dollar General Research Fund grant from the Hong Kong Research Grants Council for her next book project on Technologies of Care: Confronting Mortality in Urban China. The project will produce the first research monograph on the culture and ethics of critical care in China, linking transformations in family-based caregiving with the growing medicalization of dying.

Dr Song is also pursuing several related strands of inquiry including a cross-cultural comparison of mask wearing attitudes and practices, a longitudinal study of community-based eldercare and gerontechnologies in the context of China’s demographic transition, an analysis of medical violence against Chinese medical care workers, and the history and development of emergency medicine in China.

Before coming to Hong Kong, Dr. Song taught at Yale University, New School for Social Research, and Washington University in St. Louis, where she was awarded a teaching excellence award for “Most Engaging Professor.” At HKU, she teaches courses for the Department of History and the Common Core Curriculum, including oral history and ethnographic research methods, health and society in late imperial and modern China, and Body Politics: Local Worlds, Global Processes.

➤ Selected Publications

Walline JH, Hung KKC, Yeung JHH, Song PP, Cheung NK, Graham CA. The impact of SARS and COVID-19 on major trauma in Hong Kong. American Journal of Emergency Medicine 46: 10-15 (2021). PMID: 33690070.

Song, Priscilla and Joseph Walline. “Virtual Technologies of Care in a Time of Viral Crisis: An Ethnographic View from Hong Kong.” Somatosphere (2020).

Song, Priscilla. “Negotiating Evidence and Efficacy in Experimental Medicine.” Chapter 3 in: Can Science and Technology Save China? Edited by Susan Greenhalgh and Li Zhang. Ithaca: Cornell University Press (2020).

Zhang, Chaoxiong and Priscilla Song. “Translating Guān’ài in the People’s War on Drugs: Enacting Relations of Care in China’s State-Run Methadone Maintenance Treatment Program.” East Asian Science, Technology and Society 14(1): 85-108 (2020).

Chen, Yanyan, Honglin Chen, Priscilla Song. “Promises and Pitfalls of Integrating Home-Based Health Services into Shanghai’s Eldercare System.” Journal of Ageing and Society 40(3): 480-500 (2020).

Honglin Chen, Hui Yang, Priscilla Song, Lu Wang. “An Ambiguous Sense of Professional Identity: Community-based Caregivers for Older Adults in China.” Ageing International 42(2): 236-250 (2017).

Song, Priscilla. Biomedical Odysseys: Fetal Cell Experiments from Cyberspace to China. Princeton and Oxford: Princeton University Press (2017). 296pp.

Song, Priscilla. “Biotech Pilgrims and the Transnational Quest for Stem Cell Cures.” Medical Anthropology: Cross-Cultural Studies in Health & Illness 29(4): 384-402 (2010).

➤ Contact Information

Centre for the Humanities and Medicine
Centennial Campus
The University of Hong Kong

Tel: +852 3917 2867