Top of the Heap: Matthew Kohrman

This article is part of the series:

[For this instalment of the Top of the Heap series, I spoke with medical anthropologist and Associate Professor Matthew Kohrman from Stanford University.]

Summer has arrived in North America. Catching up on academic reading is not my first priority at the moment. May it be yours! If so, here are a few texts among the many that have been beckoning me, some for far too long. I will be on sabbatical academic year 2016-2017, so my justifications for reading these texts in the months ahead will be perilously few.

Works in medical anthropology that I hope to be perusing soon and which you too may wish to consider are Harris Solomon’s Metabolic Living: Food, Fat, and the Absorption of Illness in India, Vincanne Adams’ Metrics: What Counts in Global HealthCheryl Mattingly’s Moral Laboratories: Family Peril and the Struggle for a Good Lifeand Charles Briggs and Clara Mantini-Briggs’ Tell Me Why My Children Died: Rabies, Indigenous Knowledge, and Communicative JusticeNo less alluring are a few books that colleagues and students have been recommending to me, including Sara Ahmed’s The Promise of Happiness, Carlo Caduff’s The Pandemic Perhaps: Dramatic Events in a Public Culture of Danger, Saskia Sassen’s Expulsions: Brutality and Complexity in the Global EconomyDeborah Cowen’s The Deadly Life of Logistics: Mapping Violence in Global Trade, and two books by Brad Evans and his co-authors, Resilient Life: The Art of Living Dangerously and Disposable Futures: The Seduction of Violence in the Age of Spectacle.

Thinking forward to a new project of mine that will speak to topics in health and the environment, on my must-read list are also Barbara Ellen Smith’s Digging Our Own Graves: Coal Miners and the Struggle over Black Lung Disease and Michelle Murphy’s Sick Building Syndrome and the Problem of Uncertainty: Environmental Politics, Technoscience, and Women Workers.

I was born spring 1964, two months after the civil rights icon and NFL star, Jim Brown, helped my hometown claim a sports championship and enjoy a victory lap of masculine self-celebration.  Fifty-two years onward, after waves of feminist transformation worldwide and a half century of racial and economic turmoil in Northeastern Ohio, two texts free of academic airs that tug at me for immediate consideration are Mike Freeman’s Jim Brown: The Fierce Life of an American Hero and Scott Raab’s infelicitously titled, The Whore of Akron: One Man’s Search for the Soul of LeBron James.

And then there is China. To my interests there, books that are top of the pile include Petrus Liu’s Queer Marxism in Two ChinasPeter Ho and Richard Edmonds’ China’s Embedded Activism: Opportunities and Constraints of a Social Movement, and Elanah Uretsky’s Occupational Hazards: Sex, Business, and HIV in Post-Mao China.

Stitched together this seems like a sizable list. If I get through even half of it – okay, even if I don’t get that far – I intend to enjoy some Asia-inspired graphic novels along the way, including Guy Delisle and Helge Dascher’s Shenzhen: A Travelogue from China and Pyongyang: A Journey in North KoreaMy fellow Californian, Gene Luen Yang, was recently named a National Ambassador to literature, so perhaps I’ll also find time for his celebrated works, like Boxers and Saints and the Avatar series. Hey, if nothing else, I can always tell myself that I’m bringing his eye candy home to encourage my 14-year-old son to read.

Matthew Kohrman is an Associate Professor at Stanford University. With a research focus on the Republic of China, he engages various intellectual terrains such as governmentality, gender theory, political economy, critical science studies, narrativity, and embodiment. In particular, he explores how culture, health and politics are interrelated. Recently, Prof. Kohrman has been involved in research aimed at analyzing and intervening in the biopolitics of cigarette smoking among Chinese citizens. This work expands upon heuristic themes of his earlier disability research and engages in novel ways techniques of public health, political philosophy, and spatial history.

Photo: Vintage Library

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