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Anthropology JHU

Department of Anthropology
The Johns Hopkins University
404 Macaulay Hall
3400 North Charles Street
Baltimore, MD 21218

Phone 410-516-7272
Fax 410-516-6080


Clara Han

Clara Han

 Assistant Professor
Phone (410) 516-2864

113 Macaulay

Office Hours
Spring 2013

Thursdays 12PM-2PM and by appointment


PhD, 2007, Harvard University

MD, 2007, Harvard Medical School

Regional and research interests:

Anthropologies of health, well-being, and care; violence; poverty; moral community; subjectivity; law, specifically in relation to incarceration; kinship; and science and technology; Latin America, specifically Chile, and the United States

Courses Taught:

Undergraduate: Poverty’s Life: Anthropologies of Health and Economy; Anthropology of Mental Illness; Bodies in Anthropology; Care and Affliction in the Everyday; On the Question of Drugs; Medical Anthropology; Prisons and police

Graduate: Inquiries between Life and Death; On Care and Well-Being; Methods, Proseminar, Anthropology and Philosophy


My long-term research interests are on the themes of poverty, health, and violence. My first book, entitled Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile (University of California Press, 2012), attends to the experiences of care and limits amongst urban poor families in the context of the post-authoritarian state’s attempts to pay "moral and social debts" to the population. Since 1990, the Chilean state has attempted to "pay back" the moral and social debt to the population accrued during the Pinochet dictatorship. A "moral debt" was owed to the victims of human rights violations, while a "social debt" was owed to the poor. This research explores not only how these debts emerged with the lifeworlds of the urban poor in the form of poverty and mental health programs as well as in official acknowledgements of torture in the population, but also how kin and neighbors engage in subtle modalities of care as well as denial towards their intimates, and the various ways in which state violence and economic precariousness interweave in daily life. It explores how consumer indebtedness has become a pervasive feature amongst poor urban families, while at the same time exploring how notions of gift and historical forms of solidarity gain new valences in everyday life. As such, the research is deeply concerned with temporality, morality, and concepts of health and life in relation to the everyday. Funding for this research came from institutions including the Social Science Research Council, the National Institutes of Health, the National Science Foundation.

I am currently conducting research for my next project in Santiago, Chile. This project is concerned with the achievements and difficulties of relatedness in a neighborhood known for drug trafficking and under police occupation. I am particularly interested in the ways in which living and dying are intertwined with incarceration and other manifestations of the law; how modalities of police intervention transfigure the very nature of specific streets; and how attending to the care of the disabled, the dying, and the dead allows for other, quieter aspects of neighborhood life to emerge. This study also considers the wider context of drug law reforms and criminal procedure reform in Chile, and regionally in Latin America, that has been tied to projects of transitional justice and has advanced an ambitious transformation from the inquisitorial system to the adversarial court system in the past decade. As is perhaps well-known, in the past two decades, the prison population across Latin America has significantly grown. Chile’s prison population has had a 75% increase between 2000 and 2009, making Chile’s incarceration rate the highest in Latin America. Yet, few ethnographic studies have actually explored how kinship relations, ideas of family relatedness, as well as the phenomenological qualities of neighborhoods and neighborhoods as actual social forms are changing in relation to incarceration. This research is funded by the National Science Foundation.


I am a happy core faculty member of the Critical Global Health seminar series, an interdisciplinary seminar between Anthropology, History, History of Medicine at the School of Medicine; International Health and Health, Behavior and Society at the School of Public Health. I also have an appointment at the School of Public Health in the Dept. of Health, Behavior, and Society. See this link:

I serve on the Board of Directors of The Program for the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and on the Advisory Council of the Program in Latin American Studies.



Han, Clara. 2012. Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile. Berkeley: University of California Press. (June, 2012). (at the UC Press website)

Das, Veena and Clara Han (Eds.) An Anthropology of Living and Dying in the Contemporary World. Under contract with University of California Press.

Articles and Book Chapters:

Han, Clara. In press. "On Feelings and Finiteness in Everyday Life" in Chatterji (Ed.) Generations and Genres: Conversations with Veena Das.

Han, Clara. In press. "The Difficulty of Kindness: Boundaries, Time, and the Ordinary" in Kleinman, Das, Singh, and Jackson, (Eds.), Anthropology and Philosophy: Affinities and Antagonisms.

Han, Clara. under review. "Contemporaneity of Gift: Silent Kindess, Poverty, and the Social Debt in Santiago, Chile".

Han, Clara. In Press. "Unpredictable Work and Medication: The Absorption of Pharmacueuticals into Local Worlds" in Biehl and Petryna (Eds.) When People Come First: Evidence, Actuality, and Theory in Global Health. Princeton: Princeton University Press.

Han, Clara. 2011. "Depths of the Present: State Violence and the Neoliberal State" in e-misférica 7.2 After Truth. (Read it online.)

Han, Clara. 2011. "Symptoms of Another Life: time, possibility and domestic relations in Chile’s credit economy" in Cultural Anthropology 26(1): 7-32

Han, Clara. 2010. "Earthquake in Chile: Poverty and Social Diagnoses" in LASA Forum XLI (3): 9-13.

Han, Clara. 2004. "The Work of Indebtedness: The Traumatic Present of Late Capitalist Chile" in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. 28(2): 169-187

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