João Biehl is Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology and Director of the Brazil LAB. Biehl is the author of the prize-winning books Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment and Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival. These books are ethnographic studies of the experience and treatment of mental illness and AIDS, respectively. Both Vita and Will to Live explore new regimes of normalcy and the geographies of access and marginalization that have emerged alongside pharmaceutical globalization; they also elaborate on the circuits of care and the mobilization for workable infrastructures through which poor patients and families articulate alternative modes of existence and politics. Concerned with the conceptual and literary force of ethnography, Biehl has recently co-authored Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming. He is also the co-author of the books When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health and Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations. Biehl is co-editing the book series Critical Global Health.
At the Brazil LAB, Biehl is leading a multi-disciplinary initiative on Planetary Health and Indigenous Ecologies of Knowledges and helping to curate Freedoms | Liberdades, a digital platform of storied images of different phases of the institution of slavery in Brazil and post-abolition life. In his current ethnographic research, Biehl is exploring the judicialization of health and the emergence of the category of patient-citizen-consumer in Brazil. Though the Safeguarding Amazonia project, he is also chronicling multi-stakeholders’ efforts to articulate an alternative vision for the Brazilian Amazon, which is threatened by illegal deforestation, fires, and socioeconomic inequality.
Biehl received Princeton’s Presidential Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005 and Princeton’s Graduate Mentoring Award in 2012, and has served as a Service Focus faculty mentor in 2018-2019 and 2019-2020