Clara Han

Clara Han

Professor and Director of Graduate Studies

Contact Information

Research Interests: Violence, care, urban poverty; affliction and illness experience; death and dying; everyday life; ethnography; Latin America; United States; East Asia

Clara Han is Professor in the Department of Anthropology. She received a PhD in Social Anthropology from Harvard University and an MD from Harvard Medical School in 2007. She received a BA in Molecular Biology and International Affairs from Princeton University in 1997.

Professor Han's investigates the intersections of neighborhood, medical and legal institutions, and intimate life in contexts marked by both the slow, corrosive violence of economic precarity and the catastrophic violence of torture, extrajudicial killing and war. Two thematic clusters that cross-cut anthropology undergird this research: first, the experience of illness in contexts marked by economic deprivation; and second, the articulation of violence, affliction, and kinship. For over twenty years, Professor Han has conducted research in low-income neighborhoods in Santiago, Chile. More recently, she has conducted research in Korea, focusing particularly on the Korean War and the partitioning of the two Koreas.

Professor Han is the author of Life in Debt: Times of Care and Violence in Neoliberal Chile (UC Press, 2012; traducción en español, LOM Ediciones, 2022) and Seeing Like a Child: Inheriting the Korean War (Fordham University Press, 2021), awarded the 2022 Association for Feminist Anthropology Senior Book Prize and a finalist for the 2022 Victor Turner Prize in Ethnographic Writing. Based on over a decade of research in a low-income neighborhood in Chile, Life in Debt 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. Writing from inside childhood memories, Seeing Like a Child reverses the social science method of emplotting experience within existing historical narratives to instead see as a child, recasting a picture of inheritance from one based on the transmission of memory to the child's learning to inhabit a world marked by violence. For discussions of these books in forums, please see the book symposium on Life in Debt and the book forum on Seeing Like a Child. Professor Han is also the co-editor with Veena Das of the 45-chapter volume, Living and Dying in the Contemporary World: A Compendium (UC Press, 2015).

Professor Han is currently completing a book manuscript Echoes of a Death, which traces how a single death at the hands of police in a police-occupied low-income neighborhood in Santiago, Chile echoes in the lives of family members, among neighbors, and within state institutions. With funding from the National Science Foundation, she is PI with Veena Das of a study on intra-household decision-making under Covid-19 pandemic measures, which involved biweekly household surveys and amplificatory interviews for a period of 5 months during the periods of lockdowns and movement restrictions. With co-PIs Erin Chung (Political Science) and Yumi Kim (History), she co-founded the Critical Responses to Anti-Asian Violence initiative at Johns Hopkins. She is a co-PI of the Forms of Life network, funded by the CNRS (Paris, France), and a research member of RICEVE (Réseau International de Chercheurs à l'Épreuve des Violences Extrêmes - International Network of Researchers Facing Extreme Violence).

Professor Han is founder and series co-editor of Thinking From Elsewhere, the award-winning anthropology series at Fordham University Press.

At Johns Hopkins, she is a board member of the Program for the Study of Women, Gender and Sexuality; Racism, Immigration, and Citizenship; East Asian Studies; the Center for Medical Humanities and Social Medicine.




  • Introduction to Medical Anthropology
  • Reproduction, Kinship, and the State
  • Health, Medicine, Gender, and Sexuality
  • Anthropology of Mental Illness
  • Trauma: institutions, violence, and everyday life
  • Reverberations of the Korean War
  • Latin America in a Fracturing World


  • Graduate core courses (Proseminar, Methods, Defining Region, Proposal Writing)
  • Readings in Anthropology
  • Reading Canguilhem
  • Normal and Pathological
  • Anthropology and Philosophy
  • Error, Experiment, Translation, and Complexity in Science and Medicine
  • Narrative, Autobiography, and Self-Knowledge
  • Precarity
  • Care and Affliction

Special Issue Journals

“Avoidance of Childhood” Special Issue, Editor, with participants from the International Research Network (GDRI) “Forms of Life”. (In progress)

Guest Editor, Special Section, “Affliction and its interlocutors: Reading Veena Das’s Affliction: Health, Disease, Poverty” for Medicine, Anthropology,Theory,September 2017.

Journal Articles

“Genres of Witnessing: Narrative, Violence, Generations” in Ethnos: Journal of Anthropology. DOI: 10.1080/00141844.2019.1630466, co-author with Andrew Brandel, 2019

“Precarity, Precariousness and Vulnerability” in Annual Review of Anthropology, 47: 331-343, Fall 2018.

“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.  Spanish translation:

“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 

“Details in the Dying Space” in Details, Brandel, Das, Laugier, Pitrou (Eds.) In progress.

"Being Policed as a Condition of Life" in Writing the World of Policing, Didier Fassin (Ed.) University of Chicago Press, 2017. 

 “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, Fall 2015

“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, Fall 2015

“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

“Precariousness and Everyday Life” in LASA Forum, Fall 2014.

“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.