Yanping Ni is a first-year graduate student in the East Asian Studies program. She holds a bachelor’s degree in Journalism from Sichuan University and a master’s degree in Film and Television Studies from the University of Warwick. Her research interest includes environmental/medical issues in China, environmental media, and East Asian arthouse films. Her work has been presented at conferences in the U.S. and elsewhere. She is currently working on a project about the occupational disease of pneumoconiosis and also studying Wuhan residents’ online diary vlogs in the COVID-19 pandemic.

Pneumoconiosis, also known as “black lung,” is the most serious occupational disease in China. By the end of 2018, over 870,000 Pneumoconiosis cases have been confirmed, accounting for approximately 90% of all occupational disease cases.  Difficulties in receiving compensation, along with the incurability of the disease and the expensive costs of treatment, add up as heavy burdens to both the patients and their families. Although the “black lung” has gained attention in both scholarly and non-scholarly work, in this literature women are always absent or solely serve as the background of the patients. In contrast to this lack, females in fact take up most responsibilities after the disease “invades” into the patients’ body (usually male) and into the daily life of families. Ni’s project will focus on women’s invisible, non-wage, subsistence labor, and doubled responsibilities and will seek a better understanding of the effects caused by the non-human agent of dust to the family. Looking at male patients only risks reproducing what Sherry Ortner (2016) has called “dark anthropology,” which obsessively focuses on questions of inequality, precarity, and anxiety. In contrast, Ni’s study with females and families seeks to explore what Joel Robbin (2013) has called “an anthropology of the good,” in which practices of love, persistence, and responsibility are intertwined with the pain and the darkness in everyday striving. To better understand participant’s daily lives, Ni will conduct interviews remotely, follow their posts on social media, and use Photovoice to record aspects of their day-to-day lives.


July 27, 2020. Dark Side of Mining Industry in China: Conversations with Black Lung Patients