lan li headshot


Ph.D. 2016, Massachusetts Institute of Technology
Graduate Program in History, Anthropology, Science Technology and Society
B.A. 2010, Barnard College, Columbia University

Areas of Interest:

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

Research and Teaching:

I am a historian of the body and filmmaker focusing on medicine and health in global East Asia. I received my Ph.D. 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. My first book manuscript, Intimate Cartographies: Meridians and Nerves in Global Chinese Medicine, explores a long history of anatomy through graphic representations of meridians and nerves. My second project centers on a transnational history of numbness, which situates numbness, or ma , in categories of flavor and food and tracking its transformation into a pathological side effect.
I am offering introductory and upper-level undergraduate courses, such as FWIS courses on science and medicine and upper-level courses on global histories of the body. I am engaged in student-centered research and direct the Medicine Race Democracy Lab ( and the meta-stasis podcast ( My teaching and research center on interdisciplinary methods in the digital and medical humanities, including cartography, literature analysis, oral history, to engage with topics related to decolonizing science and medicine. My 
film and media work has involved collaborations with medical practitioners in Shanghai, Mumbai, São Paulo, New York, and Boston.

Selected Publications:

  • Li, L. “Numbing Aesthetics: Taste and Tempers of Peppercorn / Mountain Pepper / Sanshō.” Gastronomica. 20.4: 64-74.
  • Li, L. “Sunk from Sight.” In Fluid Matter(s): Flow and Transformation in the History of the Body, edited by Natalie Köhle and Shigehisa Kuriyama. Asian Studies Monograph Series 14. Canberra, ANU Press, 2020.
  • 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 Exhibitions:

Selected Media: