Lawrence Cohen

Lawrence Cohen's picture
Professor
Graduate Advisor for Medical Anthropology
Special Interests: 
Social Cultural Anthropology, Medical and Psychiatric Anthropology, Critical Gerontology, Lesbian and Gay Studies and Feminist and Queer Theory.
Research: 

Lawrence Cohen's primary field is the critical study of medicine, health, and the body. His book No Aging in India is about Alzheimer's disease, the body and the voice in time, and the cultural politics of senility. His two current projects are India Tonite, which examines homoerotic identification and representation in the context of political and market logics in urban north India, and The Other Kidney about the nature of immunosuppression and its accompanying global traffic in organs for transplant.

Profile: 

I am a cultural anthropologist whose primary field is the critical study of medicine, health, and the body. I wrote No Aging in India,a book on Alzheimer's disease, the body and the voice in time, and the cultural politics of senility. I am 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 Kidney * engages the nature of immunosuppression and its accompanying global traffic in organs for transplant. It is part of a larger collaborative project with my 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 my work has been in India. I have studied and had fellowships in Delhi and Simla. My 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. I have also worked in the United States and most recently in Malaysia.

Before undertaking a Ph.D. in anthropology I 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, I teach both in Anthropology and in the Department of South and Southeast Asian Studies.

Office: 
319 Kroeber
Office Hours: 
Tu 9am-12pm; sign up
Representative Publications: 

On aging, senility, and the old body as a critical figure in colonial and contemporary India

No Aging in India: Alzheimer's, the Bad Family and Other Modern Thing was published by the University of California Press in 1998. The 1999 Indian edition, published by Oxford University Press in Delhi, is titled No Aging in India: Modernity, Senility and the Family. UC Press description and order form.

The book has won the 1998 Victor Turner Prize, the 1989 AES First Book Prize, and Honorable Mention for the 1999 Wellcome Medal. Reviews have appeared in the Times Literary Supplement, Current Anthropology, Anthropological Quarterly, Canadian Review of Sociology and Anthropology, Medical Anthropology Quarterly, Sociology of Health and Illness, Journal of Cross-Cultural Gerontology, Contemporary Gerontology, Journal of Contemporary Asia, Pacific Affairs, Choice, Biblio, and The Statesman.

For a brief treatment of applied anthropology and old age, see my 1994 article:"Old age: Cultural and Critical Perspectives," Annual Review of Anthropology 23:137-58. Other articles include the 1992 "No Aging in India: The Uses of Gerontology," Culture, Medicine, and Psychiatry 16:123-61 (also translated into Portuguese). and the 1995 "Toward an Anthropology of Senility: Anger, Weakness, and Alzheimer's in Banaras, India," Medical Anthropology Quarterly 9 (3):314-334.

On homosexuality and contemporary India

The articles I have out on same-sex desire and its figuration include two published in 1995: "The Pleasures of Castration: the Postoperative Status of Hijras, Jankhas, and Academics," in Sexual Nature, Sexual Culture, P. Abramson and S. Pinkerton, eds. pp. 276-304. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, and "Holi in Banaras and the Mahaland of Modernity," GLQ 2:399-424. Related work includes a 1999 essay, "The History of Semen: Notes on a Culture-Bound Syndrome," Medicine and the History of the Body, Tokyo: Ishiyaku EuroAmerica; a 1997 commentary, "Semen, Irony, and the Atom Bomb," Medical Anthropology Quarterly 11(3):301-303; and a 1997 book review co-authored with Tom Boellstorff, "Queer Science Indeed," Scientific American (October):146-147.

On transplantation, ethics, and the sale of body parts

One article of mine has appeared: "Where It Hurts: Indian Material for an Ethics of Organ Transplantation," Daedelus 128(4):135-165. Nancy Scheper-Hughes has several articles on transplantation: see Organs Watch.

On Ayurvedic medicine in India

In addition to discussions of modern Ayurveda in my book, see my 1995 essay entitled "The Epistemological Carnival: Meditations on Disciplinary Intentionality and Ayurveda," in Knowledge and the Scholarly Medical Traditions, D. Bates, ed. pp. 320-343. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.

Books