Professor Mei Zhan conducts research in the areas of medical anthropology, science and technology studies, globalization and transnationalism, and China studies. She is the author of Other-Worldly: making Chinese medicine through transnational frames (Durham: N.C.: Duke University Press, 2009). Professor Zhan conducted field research on the “worlding” of traditional Chinese medicine in Shanghai and the San Francisco Bay Area over a ten-year period (1995-2005). This multi-sited research focuses on the processes of interaction, rupture, and displacement in the translocal formation of knowledges, identities, and communities. Professor Zhan’s research and writing highlight that what we have come to call “traditional Chinese medicine” is made through—rather than prior to—various translocal encounters and from discrepant locations. Her work shows that dynamic forms of traditional Chinese medicine emerge through specific kinds of encounters, as these encounters also produce uneven and shifting visions, understandings, and practices of what makes up the world and our places in it.
Professor Zhan is currently writing an ethnography on China’s emergent knowledge economy. She investigates the rise of a new “classical Chinese medicine” through entrepreneurial experiments in cosmopolitan China. This ethnography explores how (pre)Daoist ideas such as the dynamic oneness of all things are enacted as immanent analytics for thinking, doing, and being in a profoundly disharmonious modern world. With an eye on anthropology’s own struggles with modernist modes of rationalization and knowledge making, this ethnography explores possibilities for the “nonmodern” inherent within everyday life and anthropological practice.
Professor Zhan teaches courses on the History of Anthropological Theory, Spirits of Capitalism, the Anthropology of Knowledge, Humanism and Posthumanism, the Ethnography of Encounters, China and Globalization, among others.
Recent publications (selection)
2020 “Afterword.” In Can Science and Technology Save China?: Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Realities.Susan Greenhalgh and Li Zhang, eds. Cornell University Press. Pp. 213-8.
2019 “Out of nothing: (Re)worlding ‘theory’ through Chinese medical entrepreneurship.” In The World Multiple: The Quotidian Politics of Knowing and Generating Entangled Worlds. Grant Jun Otsuki, Shiho Satsuka, Keiichi Omura, Atsuro Morita, eds. New York: Routledge, pp. 175-189.
2019 “Thinking with/through Analogies.” The Immanent Frame: secularism, religion, and the public sphere. The Social Science Research Council. https://tif.ssrc.org/2019/03/15/thinking-with-through-analogies/
2018 “Cosmographic Experiments: Thinking, Doing, and Being with Classical Chinese Medicine.” Humanities Futures. https://humanitiesfutures.org/papers/cosmographic-experiments-thinking-doing-and-being-with-classical-chinese-medicine/