Joao Biehl

Professor, Anthropology
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Ph.D., Anthropology, UC Berkeley


Biehl authored Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (University of California Press) and Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival (Princeton University Press). These books are ethnographic studies of the experience and treatment of mental illness and AIDS, respectively. Both Vita and Will to Live explore new geographies of access and marginalization that have emerged alongside pharmaceutical globalization. They also elaborate on networks of care that poor urban patients create in their daily struggles to survive.

Biehl is writing a book tentatively titled Traces-of-what-one-does-not-know—an historical ethnography of the Mucker War, a religious and fratricidal conflict that shattered the 19th century German-Brazilian communities of southern Brazil. He is also co-writing Memento Vivere: War and Worldmaking in the South American Borderlands (1864-1874) and collaborating on two edited books: Oikography: A New Anthropology of the House and Arc of Interference: Medical Anthropology for Worlds on the Edge. Concerned with the conceptual and literary force of ethnography, Biehl has recently co-authored Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming(link is external). His present research explores the social impact of large-scale treatment programs in resource-poor settings and the role of the judiciary in administering public health in Brazil. Biehl is coordinating a research and teaching partnership between Princeton University and the University of São Paulo centered on global health and the anthropology of health and medicine, and is co-coordinating a collaborative network on “Race and Citizenship in the Americas.”