I am an anthropologist working at the intersection of science and technology studies, history, political economy, gender and sexuality, biology, and medicine. My work aims to unsettle some of the deeply held assumptions about objectivity that underlie the politics and history of medical research. I am currently working on several projects.
I’ve launched a major research project on zoonosis and the virology, specifically aiming to better understand the history of vaccine development over the past 200 years. I’m also interested in arts-based methods in humanities and social sciences. To that end, a book of drawings, Things that Art, is forthcoming with the University of Toronto Press, 2019. The work reconsiders and interrupts the ways in which categories underpin knowledge systems and also aims to realize drawing as a useful and provocative method in the social sciences. I have two other on-going drawings projects, one a graphic novel on gender transitioning and the other on the history of the lungs and air. A section of the latter project is forthcoming.
My book Injury (Princeton UP: 2006), analyzed the twentieth century emergence of tort law in the United States as a highly politicized and problematic form of regulating the design of mass-produced commodities in light of their propensity to injure naïve consumers. My second book, Malignant: How Cancer Becomes Us (UC Press: 2013) examines the ways in which institutions such as law, medicine, and the media have established ways of understanding, justifying, and carefully managing the social understanding of cancer. At every vector, this requires negotiating both the uncertainty about what cancer is and how it spreads as well as how our environments produce it in ways we neither understand not carefully investigate. While uncertainty is often understood as a simple gap in knowledge, Malignant reads across the histories of oncology, economics, literature, and law, as well the histories of a series of carcinogens including tobacco, nuclear bomb tests, and plastics, to better understand how uncertainty has emerged as a major player in debates about cancer causation. By tracing the contested concepts of cancer that lie at the core of debates over cause, treatment, responsibility, and national progress, Malignant aims to show why cancer remains such an intractable medical, social, and economic problem that takes millions of lives as it both costs, and generates, billions of dollars. Malignant won multiple awards in medical anthropology, medical journalism, and science and technology studies.
My research has been published in multiple journals and is available at www.lochlannjain.org