Lawrence Cohen

Research Expertise and Interest

social cultural anthropology, medical and psychiatric anthropology, critical gerontology, lesbian and gay studies, feminist and queer theory

Research Description

Lawrence Cohen is a professor in the Department of Anthropology and the Department of South & Southeast Asian Studies.  He is a cultural anthropologist whose primary field is the critical study of medicine, health, and the body. He wrote No Aging in India, a book on Alzheimer's disease, the body and the voice in time, and the cultural politics of senility. He is now working on two projects. India Tonite examines homoerotic identification and representation in the context of political and market logics in urban north India. The Other Kidneyengages the nature of immunosuppression and its accompanying global traffic in organs for transplant. It is part of a larger collaborative project with his colleague Nancy Scheper-Hughes.

These different projects are united in several ways. They all constitute an anthropology of complex objects, working through a variety of meta-epistemological approaches in social theory, philosophical anthropology, science studies, and medical anthropology to linking talk about nature, about political economy, and about the obvious, the ground of culture. They all confront the question of ethnographic form, less as an interpretive or political gesture than as an experimental apparatus for learning something new. And they all operate in intimate relation to a figure of failed sovereignty.

Most of his work has been in India. He has studied and had fellowships in Delhi and Simla. His fieldwork has been primarily in urban north India (Banaras, Lucknow, Allahabad), in the metropoli (Delhi, Calcutta, Mumbai, Chennai, and Bangalore), and in parts of rural U.P., Tamil Nadu, and Andhra Pradesh. He has also worked in the United States and most recently in Malaysia.

Before undertaking a Ph.D. in anthropology he pursued work in the comparative study of religion (with a focus on Hindu and Jewish thought) and then in medicine (with a focus on geriatrics and psychiatry). At Berkeley, he teaches both in Anthropology and in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies.

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