Submit a Manuscript to the Journal

Health Communication

For a Special Issue on

Embodied Experiences and Health Communication in Chinese Culture

Manuscript deadline
30 June 2024

Cover image - Health Communication

Special Issue Editor(s)

Shaojing Sun, Fudan University
[email protected]

Fan Wang, Fudan University
[email protected]

Jingxi Chen, Tongji University
[email protected]

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Embodied Experiences and Health Communication in Chinese Culture

Public and professional understanding of health has long been shaped and dominated by the biomedical perspective, which treats the human body as an object (Kelly et al., 2019). However, such a perspective overlooks the role of the body as a subject to interact with the social world and contribute to one’s sense-making about health (Orphanidou et al., 2023). As a result, treating the body as a mere object risks medicalizing the field of communication and marginalizing the role of communication in health care and related activities. Ontologically, health is about being-in-the-world and being-embodied, which implies the unity of body and self (Zook, 1994).  Such an ontological view shifts the thinking about health from biology to biography, from science to culture, and from medicine to communication. In other words, understanding and promoting health entails attention to embodied experiences, culture, and communication.

People experience, engage, and interact with their living world as bodied beings and motivated actors (Field-Springer & Striley, 2018). Put differently, all human experiences are tied and relative to the lived body (Bengtsson, 2013). Such embodied experiences play an essential role in constituting and shaping individual and public perceptions/actions toward health. The conceptual linkage between embodied experiences and health communication is well supported by a rich interdisciplinary literature spanning philosophy, sociology, communication, and other disciplines. In essence, the perspective of embodied experiences places health “within the experience of being-in-the-world,” and grounds communication in the center of health (Zook, 1994).  Departing from this perspective, communication researchers have moved to revisit the relationship between health and communication (c.f., the managing meaning of embodied experience theory (MMEE) by Ellingson & Borofka, 2020; Field-Springer & Striley, 2018).

We invoke the concept of embodied experiences to call attention to the dynamic, constitutive, and processual nature of both communication and health. An individual engages with diverse communication activities on a day-to-day basis, and such experiences are embodied and constitutive of their understanding, decision-making, and action toward health, illness, health care, health risk, and the like. More importantly, embodied experiences are neither merely subjective nor purely objective, but they instead manifest both the subjectivity of the body-self and the impact of social/cultural/environmental forces (Fox, 2002). That said, the construction of health is the outcome of the confluence of embodiment and the physical/culture world. When health communication is examined, both micro/experiential factors (e.g., daily conversations about health) and macro/cultural contexts (e.g., social norms, cultural values) are vital drivers of the communication process.

Extant scholarship on health communication and promotion has long been rooted in Western thinking and Western society (Pang, 2020). Despite the publication of several special issues devoted to Asian culture and health communication, research is far from adequate in understanding and exploiting non-Western contexts and local embodied experiences to advance innovative theories and health practices. To that end, we initiate this special issue to call particular attention to the embodied health practices in Chinese culture and society, and to advance theorization of those experiences in the context of understanding health communication processes.

With the concept of embodied experiences, we refer to a wide range of health-related experiences (e.g., experience with Chinese health care, experience of being exposed to Chinese media coverage of health, experience of interacting with health campaigns) in the Chinese culture—and how these experiences are embodied, embedded, enacted, extended, and emoted (Ott, 2017). One’s being-doing-becoming-in-the-world emerges out of their experiences with health care, physicians, health messages, health policies, friends, and families, among many other things (Fox, 2002). Compared to Western countries, China houses a different history, health-care system, media institution, and social values. These unique historical, cultural, and societal factors exercise a pivotal impact on, and are impacted by, both health practices and health communication. For example, traditional Chinese medicine (TCM) values the four-diagnostic methods which have a longtime influence on Chinese people’s health beliefs and experiences; Chinese people’s experiences with the Chinese medicine have become an integral part of the Chinese culture. With this special issue, we hope to gather researchers from diverse disciplines—including but not limited to communication, sociology, philosophy, and anthropology—to study the relationship between embodied experiences, health communication, and Chinese culture. It is our hope that researchers will move beyond depicting embodied experiences to advance concepts and theories, and to strengthen the understanding of health communication and guide more effective communication practices.

Suitable topics for this special issue include, but are not limited to, such issues as the following:

  1. How do the meanings of fundamental constructs—such as health, illness, health care, and health authority—emerge out of people’s embodied experiences in Chinese culture?
  2. What are the roles of media and technology in creating and mediating people’s experiences with health care in China?
  3. How do patients and physicians experience their self and identity, as well as authority, in their daily health practices in China?
  4. In which way do one’s experiences with the pandemic interact with other kinds of experiences (e.g., health policy reform, daily entertainment) to influence and shape their views, decisions, and actions toward health?
  5. What are the unique and joint roles of different actors—such as government, health-care providers, businesses, NGOs, opinion leaders, and acquaintances—in molding Chinese people’s experiences with health care?
  6. How do one’s mediated experiences and unmediated experiences with health together link to their values, views, and actions toward health care and health communication?

Submission Instructions

All submissions should follow the guidelines for authors as detailed on the Journal’s homepage. The author(s) should clearly lay out the theoretical underpinning of their work, and elaborate how the work contributes to theoretical innovation in health communication. Select the special issue title “Embodied Experiences and Health Communication in Chinese Culture” when submitting your paper to ScholarOne. We welcome various methodological approaches, though the study should be related to Chinese culture and demonstrate a theoretical flavor. All submissions will undergo peer reviews through the online submission system.

Full papers should be submitted by 30 June, 2024.

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