Clara Han

Clara Han

Associate Professor and Director of Graduate Studies

Mergenthaler 463
Mondays, 1:00 - 3:00 p.m.

I received a PhD from Harvard University and an MD from Harvard Medical School in 2007. My research interests cluster around themes of poverty, disease and illness, care and violence. I am particularly interested in the ways in which these themes are rendered in ethnography, through attention to everyday life and to the life of the concrete other. Following these themes through the everyday have led me to also explore how death resounds in the lives of others, how a catastrophic event is enfolded in the domestic and within kinship relations, and how the perspective of the child changes how we render the everyday in our writing. I try to work beyond subdisciplinary boundaries. I have undertaken extensive fieldwork in Santiago, Chile, and more recently have turned to work in Korea.

I have explored these themes through various books projects. Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile is based on over a decade of fieldwork in a low-income neighborhood in Santiago, Chile. It explores the slow shifts in subjectivity and small fluctuations of care and neglect in intimate relations as they are interpenetrated by economic precarity, and state programs on poverty, mental health, and human rights. My second book project, Echoes of a Death, is based in a low-income neighborhood under police occupation in Santiago, Chile. It follows how the death of a young man at the hands of the police reverberates through specific kinship relations, through the neighborhood, and within state institutions. While the literature on violence in Latin America focuses on the massiveness of violent death in the region, I am interested in what comes to mark the experience of a single death.

Collaborations have been vital for keeping me intellectually alive. I am currently collaborating with my colleague Andrew Brandel (a graduate of our PhD program) on a book entitled Through the Eyes of a Child, in which we take our childhood memories as a route to explore the ways in which children might inherit the catastrophic loss of a world (the Korean War and the Nazi genocide). With Veena Das, I co-edited Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium (University of California Press, 2015), a 45-chapter tome on the state of anthropology today. With Bhrigupati Singh and Robert Desjarlais, I am co-editing a Special Issue on the Anthropology of Life Itself, to be published in HAU Journal of Ethnography.

At Johns Hopkins, I am the Co-Director of the Program on Racism, Immigration and Citizenship, the co-organizer of the Critical Global Health Seminar, and a board member of East Asian Studies, the Program on the Study of Women, Gender, and Sexuality, and on the advisory board of the Program for Latin American Studies. Beyond, I am a member of the Executive Board of the Society for Medical Anthropology, member of the Working Group on Reconstructing the Self for the International Panel on Exiting Violence (Fondation Maison des Sciences de l’homme), member of the international Network on Forms of Life (CNRS), and member of the research network on Policing and new urban imaginaries: new security formats in Southern Cities (FAPESAP, Brazil).

Recent Courses
  • Poverty’s Life: Anthropologies of Health and Economy
  • An Anthropology of Mental Illness
  • Anthropology of Health and Disease

  • Error, Experiment, Translation, and Complexity in Science and Medicine
  • Methods

Special Issue Journals

Co-editor with Giovanni da Col, Robert Desjarlais, and Bhrigupati Singh. “Anthropology and Life Itself”, Special Issue for HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory. (In progress)

Journal Articles

"Sensing her father, creating a future in kinship," for HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Special Issue "Anthropology and Life Itself" (In progress). 

“A long-term occupation: police and the figures of the stranger”, and “More eyes, different eyes: A response to Didier Fassin” in Social Anthropology 21(3): 378-384; 387-388, August 2013

“Suffering and Pictures of Anthropological Inquiry: A response to comments on Life in debt” in HAU: Journal of Ethnographic Theory, Book Symposium.  3(1): 231-240, June 2013.  

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

“The Work of Indebtedness: the Traumatic Present of Late Capitalist Chile” in Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry. Special Issue: Cultures of Trauma.  28(2): 169-187, June 2004.

Book Chapters 

"Accusation, cruelty, and the stance of care" for Didier Fassin (ed.) Writing the World of Policing (In progress). 

"Class and Identity" entry, Anthropology of Politics, Law, Power, and Identity Topic Category, Wiley-Blackwell International Encyclopedia of Anthropology. (In progress). 

“An Anthropology of Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Concept Note”, Clara Han and Veena Das, in An Anthropology of Living and Dying in the Contemporary World. Eds. Veena Das and Clara Han. Berkeley: University California Press, forthcoming Fall 2014

“Echoes of a Death: Violence, Endurance, and Experiences of Loss” for An Anthropology of Living and Dying in the Contemporary World.  Eds. Veena Das and Clara Han. Berkeley: University California Press, forthcoming Fall 2014. 

“On Feelings and Finiteness in Everyday Life” in Wording the World: Veena Das and Scenes of Inheritance. Roma Chatterji, Ed. New York: Fordham University Press, forthcoming October 2014.

“The Difficulty of Kindness: Boundaries, Time, and the Ordinary” in The Ground Between: Anthropologists Engage Philosophy. Veena Das, Arthur Kleinman, Michael Jackson, Bhrigupati Singh (Eds.) Durham: Duke University Press, 2014, pp. 71-93.

“Labor Instability and Community Mental Health: The Work of Pharmaceuticals in Santiago, Chile” in When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health. João Biehl and Adriana Petryna (Eds.) Princeton University Press, 2013, pp: 276-301.  

Book Reviews

Review of Children of Fate: Childhood, Class, and the State in Chile, 1850-1930 by Nara Milanich.  PoLAR: Political and Legal Anthropology Review.  33(1): 163-167, May 2010.

Review of Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival by João Biehl. Journal of Latin American and Caribbean Anthropology.  13(2): 459-461, November 2008.

Commentaries in journals, magazines, online media, and interviews

"Endurance and the Precariousness of Life" in LASA Forum Debate on Precariedades (In progress). 

“Memory’s Manifestations:  Dr. Salvador Allende Gossens and today’s activism from La Pincoya” in NACLA: Report on the Americas, Report on Chile “Forty Years after Allende: The Politics of Memory and the Memory of Politics” 46(3): 44-48, October 2013. 

“Para una etnografía del silencio y del logro de estar presente ante el otro. Una entrevista con Clara Han”, Persona & Sociedad/ Universidad Alberto Hurtado: Vol. XXVII / No 1 / enero-abril 2013 / 179-189.

“Ethics: Integration” in Fieldsights - Field Notes, Cultural Anthropology Online, May 7, 2013

“Depths of the Present: State Violence and the Neoliberal State” in e-misférica 7.2  After Truth: Justice, Memory, and Related Aftermaths.  2010.

“Earthquake in Chile:  Poverty and Social Diagnoses” in LASA Forum XLI (3): 9-13. Summer, 2010.  

“Commentary on Biehl, João and Peter Locke’s Deleuze and the Anthropology of Becoming”. Current Anthropology. 51(3): 342, June 2010.