Lan Li

WEBSITE(S)| Medical Humanities

Lan Li is a historian of the body and filmmaker focusing on medicine and health in global East Asia. She received her PhD in History, Anthropology, and Science Technology and Society Studies from MIT in 2016 and served as a Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience at Columbia University. Dr. Li’s first book manuscript, Intimate Cartographies: Body Mapping and the Assembly of Medical Imagination, explores a visual history of mapping meridians onto peripheral nerves from the early modern period to the twentieth century. Her second project centers on a transnational history of numbness, which situates numbness, or ma 麻, in categories of flavor and food before tracking its transformation into a pathological side effect. Her work has been supported by the National Science Foundation and the PD Soros Fellowship for New Americans.
Dr. Li is currently offering an undergraduate course, The Body in Global Histories of Medicine, which introduces core concepts in comparative medical history. Her film and media work has led to collaborations with medical practitioners in Shanghai, Mumbai, São Paulo, New York, and Boston. She is the co-founder and co-host of the exhibition Metaphors of the Mind.
Selected Publications:

  • Li, L. “Sunk from Sight.” In Fluids Matter(s). ANU Press. 2020. (forthcoming)
  • Li, L. “Pinpricks: Needling, Numbness, and Temporalities of Pain.” In Imagining the Brain: Episodes in the History of Brain Research, 1st ed., 243:205–29. Academic Press, 2018.
  • Li, L. “Invisible Bodies: Lu Gwei-djen & the Specter of Translation.” Asian Medicine 13 (1–2): 33–68.
  • Li, L. “The Edge of Expertise: Representing Barefoot Doctors in Cultural Revolution China.” Endeavour 39, no. 3–4 (September 2015): 160–67.

Other Writing:

  • Li, L. “Unequal Projections: When Hands are more than Hands.” Cosmologics. The Center for Black, Brown, Queer Studies. 2019 (forthcoming)
  • Li, L. “The Image Series: 12 Meridians.” HASTS. 23 October 2015. 
  • Li, L. “The Shanghai Sanatorium.” HASTS. 10 September 2014.

Selected Media:

Research Areas

Medical Humanities, East Asian Science Technology and Society Studies (STS), History of Medicine, History of Science


PhD, Massachusetts Institute of Technology

BA, Barnard College, Columbia University


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