Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry

, Volume 15, Issue 3, pp 275–275 | Cite as

Suffering and its professional transformation: toward an ethnography of interpersonal experience

  • Arthur Kleinman
  • Joan Kleinman


The authors define experience as an intersubjective medium of microcultural and infrapolitical processes in which something is at stake for participants in local worlds. Experience so defined mediates (and transforms) the relationship between context and person, meaning and psychobiology in health and illness and in healing. Building on this theoretical background, an approach to ethnography is illustrated through an analysis of suffering in Chinese society. The embodied memory of a survivor of serious trauma during the Cultural Revolution provides an example. From there, the authors go on to describe a framework of indigenous Chinese categories for the analysis of experience — mianzi (face), quanxi (connections), renqing (situated emotion), bao (reciprocity). The paper concludes with a discussion of the existential limits of this and other anthropological approaches to the study of experience as moral process.


Theoretical Background Chinese Society Cultural Revolution Situate Emotion Interpersonal Experience 
These keywords were added by machine and not by the authors. This process is experimental and the keywords may be updated as the learning algorithm improves.


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Copyright information

© Kluwer Academic Publishers 1991

Authors and Affiliations

  • Arthur Kleinman
    • 1
  • Joan Kleinman
    • 1
  1. 1.Department of AnthropologyHarvard UniversityCambridgeU.S.A.

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