Professor Mei Zhan conducts research in the areas of medical anthropology, science and technology studies, globalization and transnationalism, and China studies. Professor Zhan conducted field research on the "worlding" of traditional Chinese medicine in Shanghai and the San Francisco Bay Area over a ten-year period (1995-2005). This multi-sited research focuses on the processes of interaction, rupture, and displacement in the translocal formation of knowledges, identities, and communities. Professor Zhan's research and writing highlight that what we have come to call "traditional Chinese medicine" is made through—rather than prior to—various translocal encounters and from discrepant locations. Her work shows that dynamic forms of traditional Chinese medicine emerge through specific kinds of encounters, as these encounters also produce uneven and shifting visions, understandings, and practices of what makes up the world and our places in it.
Professor Zhan is working on two new ethnographic projects. The first one is centered on the explosion of "scandals" as a window onto complex transformations in China today. These scandals range from international food safety issues to marriage problems among ordinary people. Professor Zhan examines how the exposure, discussion, and dramatization of these scandals in mass media, online communities, and everyday discourse are indicative of changing socialities and new modes of governmentality and subject formation. The second project investigates alternative ways of thinking, doing and being human. It begins with an exploration of how Daoism and especially its insistence on "oneness" not only provide the conceptual underpinning for traditional Chinese medicine, but can also serve as an immanent, sideways analytic that suspends practices of bifurcation in modern knowledge production.
2012 “Worlding Oneness: Daoism, Heidegger, and possibilities for treating the Human.” Social Text 29:4 (109):107-28, special issue on China and the Human.
2011 “Human Oriented? Angels and monsters in China’s health-care reform.” East Asian Science, Technology, and Society: An International Journal, 2011:5:291–311, special issue on East Asian Biopolitics.
2009 Other-Worldly: Making Chinese Medicine through Transnational Frames . Durham, NC: Duke University Press.
2009 "A Doctor of the Highest Caliber Treats an Illness before It Happens." Medical Anthropology, special issue on the globalization of Chinese Medicine, 28:2:166-88.
2008 "Wild Consumption: privatizing responsibilities in the time of SARS." In Privatizing China. Edited by Li Zhang and Aihwa Ong. Cornell University Press, pp. 156-161.
2005 "Civet Cats, Fried Grasshoppers, and David Beckham’s Pajamas: unruly bodies after SARS," American Anthropologist, 107:1:31-42.
2001 "Does It Take A Miracle? negotiating knowledges, identities and communities of traditional Chinese medicine," Cultural Anthropology 16:4:453-480, special issue Anthropology and/in/of Science