Susan Greenhalgh
John King and Wilma Cannon Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society
Professor of Anthropology, Social Anthropology Program

Harvard University
Tozzer Anthropology Building 308
21 Divinity Ave.

Cambridge MA 02138

(617) 495-7826 |

Curriculum Vitae

Research and Teaching Interests

Social Studies of Science, Technology, and Medicine; Anthropology of the State, Governance, and Public Policy; Critical Weight Studies; The Politics of Reproduction/ Population/ Life Itself; Gender Studies; Modernity and Globalization; Socialism and Post-Socialism; People's Republic of China, Taiwan, Selected interests in U.S. health and society.

Making War on Fat – and Creating New Kinds of Biocitizens

In all the public talk about how the epidemic of childhood obesity is undermining the nation, the voices of those targeted for fat reduction have gone largely unheard. In Fat-talk Nation, I draw on the narratives of 250 young Californians to uncover the hidden workings and effects of what began as a public health campaign but has now mushroomed into a society-wide war on fat. The book illuminates how the fight against fat seeks to create a new kind of thin, fit biocitizen, and how it conscripts other subjects – the good doctor, the good parent, the good teacher, the good coach – into the campaign. Fat-talk Nation shows how the war on fat has produced a generation of young people who are obsessed with their bodies and whose most fundamental sense of self comes from their size. It argues that attempts to rescue America from obesity-induced national decline are damaging the bodily and emotional health of young people and disrupting families and intimate relationships. The book’s core concepts (biocitizen, biomyth, biopedagogy, bioabuse, biocop, and fat personhood) offer powerful tools for understanding how obesity has come to remake who we are as a nation, and how we might work to reverse course for the next generation.

My newest project, launched in the fall of 2013, explores the emerging epidemic of childhood obesity in the People’s Republic of China. Growing numbers of single kids in China’s cities are overweight or even fat, but does that constitute an epidemic of childhood obesity? Who gets to decide how to label it and what should be done? Again, I’m interested in the science and governance of the heavy body, but the focus this time is on how this newly named epidemic is connecting China to global systems of health governance.

Making One-Child Families

This work on public health builds on my earlier research on Chinese projects of social modernity – state efforts to transform China’s “backward masses” into the modern workers and citizens needed to make China a prosperous, globally prominent nation. For many years, my empirical focus was the state’s project to optimize the size and “quality” of China’s population by limiting all couples to one child. Aside from the basic policy of economic reform and opening up, no policy has been more consequential to reform-era China than the one-child policy. Just One Child uncovers the origins of the notorious one-child policy in early reform-era population science and politics. Governing China’s Population (with political scientist Edwin A. Winckler) examines how China has governed its population during the 50-plus years since the Communist revolution of 1949, and with what effects on Chinese society, politics, and global position. Cultivating Global Citizens traces the connections between the state’s massive project to govern its population and cultivate its society, and the nation’s rise to global power.

Just One Child
was awarded the 2010 Joseph Levenson Prize of the Association for Asian Studies, the 2010 Rachel Carson Prize of the Society for the Social Study of Science, and Honorable Mentions in the 2010 Senior Book Prize of the American Ethnological Society and the 2009 Gregory Bateson Book Prize of the Society for Cultural Anthropology. Before joining Harvard’s anthropology department, I taught anthropology at the University of California, Irvine and, before that, worked as senior research associate at the New York-based Population Council.

"Fat-Talk Nation: The Human Costs of America’s War on Fat"

by Susan Greenhalgh
Cornell University Press 2015

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