Presidential Scholar in Society and Neuroscience, Columbia University
Lan Li is the child of immigrants from China
Fellowship awarded to support work towards a PhD in History of Science and Technology at Massachusetts Institute of Technology (MIT)
Lan Li is a historian and filmmaker.
Born to Chinese conservatory graduates, Lan grew up in Los Angeles surrounded by art, music, and traffic. As a full-time music enthusiast and part-time singer-songwriter, she has performed Chinese music at the Metropolitan Museum of Art and opened for the International Secret Agents Concert at Webster Hall.
Through engaging with digital humanities, Lan works to tell stories that bridge distances across cultural practices. These days, she is a historian of medicine, comparing the different ways in which individuals and institutions made sense of health and disease. Dedicated to communicating these narratives through a range of medium, Lan has collaborated with practitioners in China, India, Brazil, and the United States.
Lan 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. Her first book manuscript, Intimate Cartographies: Meridians and Nerves in Global Chinese Medicine (forthcoming with Chicago University Press) 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.
Lan is currently an Assistant Professor in the Medical Humanities Program and History Department at Rice University. 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 and founder of the Digital Oncology Initiative. She currently serves on the editorial board of positionspolitics.org. Lan directs the Metastasis Podcast and is launching an interdisciplinary research lab focusing on medicine, race, and democracy.