Nancy Chen, Anthropology

Nancy Chen is Professor of Anthropology and former inaugural Director of the Blum Center at UC Santa Cruz. Her current research focuses on genetically engineered foods and nutriceuticals to explore new boundaries of taste, consumption, and health. She is especially fascinated with rice as an object of transformative technologies and as an enduring marker of prosperity in much of the world. She addresses this research in her co-edited volume Asian Biotech: Ethics and Communities of Fate (Duke 2010), which examines formations of biotechnology and pharmaceutical industries across Asia. Nancy regularly teaches on the anthropology of food and shifting formations of food and medicine based on research for Food, Medicine, and the Quest for Good Health (Columbia 2009). Ethnographic research in multisited contexts, visual anthropology, and urban theory inform her field research and teaching.   She is also co-editor of China Urban: Ethnographies of Contemporary Culture (Duke 2001) and Bodies in the Making: Transgression and Transformation (2005). 

As a medical anthropologist, Nancy critically examines healing practices and health institutions. Her early ethnographic project in her first book Breathing Spaces:  Qigong, Psychiatry, and Healing in China (Columbia 2003) documents how psychiatry and mental health become national agendas for social integration in China while, simultaneously, alternative forms of healing resurged. Her research interests include the study of emerging healing practices, chronic and infectious diseases, and traditional medical knowledge. She also studies Chinese diasporas and teaches on Asian American identity through ethnographic research and film. 

Nancy received her Ph.D. from the joint program in medical anthropology at UC Berkeley and UC San Francisco. She conducted comparative research on traditional Chinese medicine and ancient Greek medicine as an undergraduate in Human Biology and Humanities Honors at Stanford University.

See Also