Clara Han

Professor, Anthropology, KSAS

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).