Professor João Biehl named chair of the Department of Anthropology

July 25, 2022

Princeton University has named João Biehl, the Susan Dod Brown Professor of Anthropology and an award-winning author and teacher, as the next chair of the Department of Anthropology. Biehl takes over from Carolyn Rouse, the Ritter Professor of Anthropology, who served as chair for the past six years. Biehl, who is also the Director of the Brazil LAB at the Princeton Institute for International and Regional Studies (PIIRS), began his new duties on July 1, 2022.

“It is a great honor to become Anthropology’s chair and build on the important work of my esteemed predecessors. I look forward to working closely with our brilliant faculty and students and extraordinary staff to craft a most stimulating intellectual environment and to strive for educational excellence that can meaningfully tackle the most pressing issues of our times,” Biehl said. “Deeply rooted in ethnography and committed to diversity and intellectual crosspollinations, the anthropological way of knowing is a fundamental nexus for cutting-edge knowledge and a mobilizing force for social and environmental justice on campus and beyond.” Biehl is also eager to team up with other units on campus to advance these goals, “maximizing what Anthropology can creatively do in academia and in the world.”

Biehl has been a faculty member in the Department of Anthropology since 2001 and is a Faculty Associate of multiple units at Princeton, including the High Meadows Environmental Institute, the Program in Latin American Studies, and the University Center for Human Values. Biehl was one of the co-founders of the Princeton Global Health Program in 2008 and of PIIRS’s Brazil LAB in 2018 and he has been working closely with the Pace Center for Civic Engagement and the Program for Community-Engaged Scholarship. Biehl received Princeton’s Presidential Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005 and Princeton’s Graduate Mentoring Award in 2012.

Biehl is the author of the award-winning books Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment and Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival. His latest book, Lost Writings (released this summer in Portuguese and German) explores South America’s racialized settler frontiers and insurgent archivings. Next spring, he will be publishing the volume Arc of Interference: Medical Anthropology for Worlds on Edge.

Keen to collaborative work, Biehl coedited the field-changing collections Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming and When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health. He recently co-curated the colloquy “Oikography: Ethnographies of House-ing in Critical Times” in Cultural Anthropology. Biehl is also the co-editor of the book series Critical Global Health at Duke University Press. His current research is focused on Amazonian Leapfrogging efforts and on Engaging Indigenous Ecologies of Knowledges.

Biehl assumes the chairship in the year that the Department of Anthropology celebrates its 50th anniversary. “To better appreciate our history, we are doing a detailed timeline and collecting oral histories,” Biehl said. “Our initial archival forays reveal the key role students played in establishing Anthropology at Princeton as well as the prominence of Anthropology on campus at important historical junctures.” In the fall, the Department will welcome its largest undergraduate cohort and its most international graduate cohort to date, Biehl added: “We want to harness the excitement and intellectual curiosity that are driving students to Anthropology today and we will celebrate our anniversary by bringing back to campus some of our distinguished alumni to share with the larger Princeton community how Anthropology has been central to their lives, works, and visions.”