Chinese Journal of Sociology ›› 2023, Vol. 43 ›› Issue (1): 109-137.

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People-Centred Scientific Practice: The Soviet Psycho- Prophylactic Method of Painless Childbirth in 1950s China

WANG Ying   

  • Published:2023-03-08

Abstract: This study regards the adoption and promotion of the Soviet Psycho- prophylactic Method of painless childbirth in China in the 1950s as a scientific practice. It analyzes how the method is accepted, justified and adapted as part of our understanding of the Chinese-style modernisation. The acceptance, resistance and adaptation of the Soviet psychoprophylactic method in China are seen as a result of the intertwined local knowledge and transnational knowledge transmission, a continuity of the scientific tradition of Yan'an period, as well as a response to the needs of specific historical situation. In the context of New China, science and politics were nothing more than a relationship of mutual support and benefit. Under the framework of socialist medical discourse of the 1950s, medical practitioners transfigured the political promotion of painless childbirth into scientific narrative and practice. Soviet knowledge and technology were interpreted locally as midwifery actions, perineal protection, and even Pavlov's scientific theory and rhetoric were borrowed to help develop the medicine of the Chinese nation. The movement was simultaneously a process of remoulding the mindset of Chinese professionals and intellectuals after 1949. The promotion of people-centred Soviet psychoprophylactic method of painless childbirth in China was accompanied by complex narratives of science, class, gender and nation, riddled with tensions between de-technicalization and re-technicalization, and between civilized childbirth and management of labor pain.

Key words: Soviet psycho-prophylactic method of painless childbirth, labor pain, science practice, people's nature