• Professor of Anthropology
  • greenhalgh@fas.harvard.edu
  • http://anthropology.fas.harvard.edu/people/susan-greenhalgh
  • Tozzer Anthropology Building 308 | 21 Divinity Avenue | Cambridge MA 02138

Research interests: Chinese projects of modernity/globality; social studies of science, technology, and medicine; politics of reproduction, population, and life itself; gender studies; anthropology of the state, governance, and public policy; socialism and post-socialism.

Susan Greenhalgh is Professor of Anthropology and John King and Wilma Cannon Fairbank Professor of Chinese Society at Harvard University. Before moving to Harvard, she was Professor of Anthropology at the University of California, Irvine and, before that, Senior Research Associate of the NYC-based Population Council.

In April 2016, Greenhalgh was named Fellow of the John Simon Guggenheim Memorial Foundation for twelve months starting July 2016. At Harvard, she was named Walter Channing Cabot Fellow for the year for the 2015 publication of her book, Fat-talk Nation.

Greenhalgh’s work seeks to understand the emergence of new forms of scientific governance in the context of rapid shifts in global and local political economies. Inspired by Foucault’s bold proposition on biopower – that the body is the central domain of politics and power in the modern era - her work illuminates hidden fields of “vital politics” and shows why an in-depth understanding of modern science is essential to unraveling power’s workings and often unjust effects. Her research has focused on three fields of bodily governance: the management of populations, clinical biomedicine, and global health.

Greenhalgh’s research also focuses on Chinese projects of social modernity – state efforts to transform China’s “backward masses” into the modern workers and citizens needed to make China a prosperous, globally prominent nation – and their effects on China’s society, culture, and politics. Her interest in the politics of population emerged in the mid-1980s, when, as a newly minted research associate of the Population Council, she became deeply engaged with the Cold War-esque (“evil empire”) critique of coercion in China’s population control policy.

Three books written between 2000 and 2010 ask different questions about the governance of China’s society. Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China (2008) uncovers the origins of the notorious one-child policy in early reform-era population science and politics. Governing China’s Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics (2005, with political scientist Edwin A. Winckler) traces the “governmentalization” of China’s population – how since around 1980 population has been brought under rationalized control – and the attending rise of a vast new field of vital politics involving power over the production and cultivation of life itself. Cultivating Global Citizens: Population in the Rise of China (2010) traces the connections between the state’s massive project to govern its population and foster its society, and the nation’s rise to global power.

Just One Child was awarded the 2010 Joseph Levenson Prize of the Association for Asian Studies (AAS) and the 2010 Rachel Carson Prize of the Society for the Social Study of Science (4S). It received Honorable Mention in the 2010 Senior Book Prize of the American Ethnological Society (AES), and the 2009 Gregory Bateson Book Prize of the Society for Cultural Anthropology (SCA). This body of work has been recognized by two career achievement awards, the 2002 Clifford C. Clogg award from the Population Association of America (PAA), and the 2011 Olivia Schlieffelin Nordberg Award, as well as major research grants and fellowships from the National Science Foundation, the Open Society Institute, and the John D. and Catherine T. MacArthur Foundation.

Greenhalgh’s current work – on the U.S. and global “obesity epidemic” – was born in a classroom on the leafy campus of University of California, Irvine, located in the very epicenter of the national cult of the thin, fit body. In Fat-talk Nation: The Human Costs of America’s War on Fat (2015), she draws on the narratives of young Californians – her former students – to uncover the hidden effects of what began as a public health campaign but soon mushroomed into a society-wide war on fat. The book illuminates how the fight against fat seeks to create a new kind of thin, fit biocitizen, and how it conscripts other subjects – the good doctor, the good parent, the good teacher, the good coach – into the campaign. Fat-talk Nation shows how the war on fat has produced a generation of young people who are obsessed with their bodies and whose most fundamental sense of self comes from their size. It argues that attempts to rescue America from obesity-induced national decline are damaging the bodily and emotional health of young people and disrupting families and intimate relationships. The book’s core concepts (biocitizen, biomyth, biopedagogy, bioabuse, biocop) offer powerful tools for understanding how obesity has come to remake who we are as a nation, and how we might reverse course for the next generation. In April 2016 Greenhalgh was named Harvard University Walter Channing Cabot Fellow for the year in recognition of this work.

Obesity, of course, is not just an American problem; according to the WHO, it is now the greatest public health threat facing the world in the 21st century. Since 2013 Greenhalgh has turned her attention to global health, asking how the notion that China faces an urgent epidemic of obesity arose and why it matters. Inspired by a brilliant history of the corporate invention of chronic disease in the late 20th century U.S., in China she is tracing the historical making of a science and policy of obesity, asking what kinds of public-private partnerships have been operating and, more generally, what it means to say that the chronic diseases of modern life are first and foremost markets. This project has been supported by grants from the National Science Foundation (STS Program), the Wenner-Gren Foundation for Anthropological Research, and Harvard’s Asia Center. She will be writing a book on this research during her tenure as a Guggenheim Fellow.


Can Science and Technology Save China? Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Realities. S. Greenhalgh and Li Zhang, editors. Under review.

Fat-talk Nation: The Human Costs of America’s War on Fat. Cornell University Press, 2015, 324 pp.
Paperback edition August 2017. Currently being translated for publication in China.

Cultivating Global Citizens: Population in the Rise of China. The Edwin O. Reischauer Lectures 2008.
Harvard University Press, 2010, 156 pp.

Just One Child: Science and Policy in Deng’s China. University of California Press, 2008, 403 pp.

Governing China’s Population: From Leninist to Neoliberal Biopolitics. S. Greenhalgh and Edwin A.
Winckler. Stanford University Press, 2005, 394 pp.

Under the Medical Gaze: Facts and Fictions of Chronic Pain. University of California Press, 2001, 371 pp.

Chinese State Birth Planning in the 1990s and Beyond (S. Greenhalgh and Edwin A. Winckler). Washington,
D.C.: Government Printing Office, for Resource Information Center, U.S. Immigration and Naturalization Service, 2001, 260-pp. single-spaced.

Situating Fertility: Anthropology and Demographic Inquiry, editor. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press,
1995, 304 pp.

Contending Approaches to the Political Economy of Taiwan, Edwin A. Winckler and S. Greenhalgh, editors.
Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1988, 320 pp. Chinese translation published by Lujiang Press, Xiamen,
1992. Taiwan edition published by Jen-chien Publishing Co., Taipei, 1994.

English-Chinese and Chinese-English Glossary of Demography, coedited with Ye Xiushu and Zhao Shili.
Chengdu: Sichuan University Press, 1989, 906 pp.


Journal articles and book chapters
Making Demography Astonishing: Lessons in the Politics of Population Science. Forthcoming late 2017,

Introduction, prepared for inclusion in Can Science and Technology Save China? Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Realities (details above).

The Good Scientist and the Good Multinational: Managing the Ethics of Industry-Funded Health Science.
Prepared for inclusion in Can Science and Technology Save China? Utopian Dreams, Dystopian Realities (details above).

Science and Serendipity: Finding Coca-Cola in China. Forthcoming late 2017, Perspectives in Biology and

Soda Industry Influence on Obesity Science and Policy in China. Under review at public-health journal.

Why Does the End of the One-Child Policy Matter? forthcoming late 2017 in The China Questions: Critical

Insights into a Rising Power, edited by Jennifer Rudolph and Michael Szonyi. Cambridge, MA:
Harvard University Press, 2017, pp. 123-128.

Cold War Population Science and Politics in Asia, East Asian Science, Technology, and Society: An
International Journal 10(4), December 2016, pp. 469-474.

Neoliberal Science, Chinese-Style: Making and Managing the “Obesity Epidemic,” Social Studies of Science
46(4), August 2016, pp. 485-510.

Disordered Eating/Eating Disorder: Hidden Perils of the Nation’s Fight Against Fat, Medical Anthropology
Quarterly 30(4), December 2016, pp. 545-562.

Bad Biocitizens? Latinos and the US “Obesity Epidemic,” with Megan A. Carney, Human Organization 73(3),
Fall 2014, pp. 267-276.

“Bare Sticks” and Other Dangers to the Social Body: Assembling Fatherhood in China. In Globalized
Fatherhood, Marcia C. Inhorn, Wendy Chavkin, and Jose-Alberto Navarro (eds.), Berghahn, 2014, pp.

Patriarchal Demographics? China’s Sex Ratio Reconsidered, Population and Development Review 38
Supplement, 2012, pp. 130-149.

Reprinted in The Population of China in the 21st Century, Dudley L. Poston and Gu Baochang, eds.
New York: Springer, 2015.

Weighty Subjects: The Biopolitics of the U.S. War on Fat, American Ethnologist 39(3), August 2012, pp. 471-487.

Condensed and reprinted in The Gender, Culture and Power Reader, Dorothy Hodgson, ed. Oxford:
Oxford University Press, 2015, pp. 223-234. To be reprinted in Sociocultural Anthropology: Critical and Primary Sources, Barbara D. Miller, ed. (April 2018). London: Bloomsbury Publ.

On the Crafting of Population Thought, Population and Development Review 38(1), March 2012, pp. 121-131.

Governing Chinese Life: From Sovereignty to Biopolitical Governance. In Governance of Life in Chinese
Moral Experience: The Quest for an Adequate Life, Everett Yuehong Zhang, Arthur Kleinman, and
Weiming Tu, eds. New York: Routledge, 2010, pp. 146-162.

China’s Population Policies: Engendered Biopolitics, the One-Child Norm, and Masculinization of Child Sex
Ratios. In Reproductive Health in a Neoliberalizing World, Mohan Rao and Sarah Sexton, eds. New
Delhi: Sage, 2010, pp. 299-337.

The Chinese Biopolitical: Facing the Twenty-First Century, New Genetics and Society 28(3), September 2009, pp. 205-222.

Governing China’s Population: The State Planning of Unplanned Persons. In Between Life and Death:
Governing Population in an Era of Human Rights, Sabine Berking and Magdalena Zolkos, eds. Bern
and Berlin: Peter Lang, 2009, pp. 75-98.

Missile Science, Population Science: The Origins of China’s One-Child Policy, The China Quarterly 182,
June 2005, pp. 253-276. Reprinted in Mr. Science and Chairman Mao’s Cultural Revolution: Science and Technology in Modern China, Chunjuan Nancy Wei and Darryl E. Brock, eds. Lanham, MD: Lexington, 2013, pp. 305-331.

Labeling Woefulness: The Social Construction of Fibromyalgia, with Nortin M. Hadler, Spine: An
International Journal for the Study of the Spine, January 2005, pp. 1-4.

Controlling Births and Bodies in Village China. Reprinted in People’s Republic of China, Vol. 1: Natural
Resources, Population and Social Life, Frank N. Pieke, ed. Burlington, VT: Ashgate Publ., 2002, pp.

Anthropological Engagements with China’s One-Child Policy: Controversies, Contradictions, Productivities. Anthropology in Action: Journal for Applied Anthropology in Policy and Practice 11(1), 2004, 27-34.

Globalization and Population Governance in China. In Global Assemblages: Technology, Governmentality,
Ethics, Aihwa Ong and Stephen J. Collier, eds. Malden, MA: Blackwell, 2005, pp. 354-372.

Making Up China's "Black Population." In Categories and Contexts: Anthropological and Historical Studies
in Critical Demography, Simon Szreter, Hania Sholkamy, and A. Dharmalingam, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2004, pp. 148-172.

Short Comments, in New Reflections on the Anthropological Studies of (Greater) China, Liu Xin, ed. Berkeley: Institute of East Asian Studies, University of California, Berkeley, 2004, pp. 16-19.

Science, Modernity, and the Making of China’s One-Child Policy. Population and Development Review
29(2), June 2003, pp. 163-196.

Reprinted in The Population of China in the 21st Century, Dudley L. Poston and Gu Baochang, eds.
New York: Springer, 2015.

Reprinted in Women in Asia, vol. 3, Health and Sexuality, Louise Edwards and Mina Roces, eds.
London: Routledge, 2009, pp. 131-165.

Planned Births, Unplanned Persons: "Population" in the Making of Chinese Modernity. American Ethnologist
30(2), May 2003, pp. 196-215.

Women’s Rights and Birth Planning in China: New Spaces of Political Action, New Opportunities for American Engagement. In Women’s Rights and China’s New Family Planning Law: Roundtable before the Congressional-Executive Commission on China, One Hundred Seventh Congress, 23 September 2002. Washington, DC: U.S. Government Printing Office, pp. 11-14, 53-56. Also at http://www.cecc.gov.

Fresh Winds in Beijing: Chinese Feminists Speak Out on the One-Child Policy and Women's Lives. Signs:
Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 26(3), Spring 2001, pp. 847-886.

Toward a Reflexive Population Studies for the Twenty-first Century (Por uma abordagem reflexiva para
estudos de populacao para no Seculo XXI). In The Demography of Social Exclusion (Demografia da Exclusao Social), Maria Coleta de Oliveira, ed. Sao Paulo: Editora da Unicamp (University of Campinas Press), 2001, pp. 25-46.

Fertility: Political and Political-Economic Perspectives. In International Encyclopedia of the Social and
Behavioral Sciences, Neil J. Smelser and Paul B. Baltes, eds. Oxford: Elsevier, 2001, Vol. 8, pp. 5547-5554.

Managing "The Missing Girls" in Chinese Population Discourse. In Cultural Perspectives on Reproductive
Health, Carla Maklouf Obermeyer, ed., Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2001, pp. 131-152.

Methods and Meanings: Reflections on Disciplinary Difference. Population and Development Review 23(4),
December 1997, pp. 819-825.

The Social Construction of Population Science: An Intellectual, Institutional, and Political History of 20th
Century Demography. Comparative Studies in Society and History, 38(1), January 1996, pp. 26-66.

Anthropology Theorizes Reproduction: Integrating Practice, Political Economic, and Feminist Perspectives.
In Situating Fertility: Anthropology and Demographic Inquiry, Susan Greenhalgh, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 3-28.

Afterword: (Re)capturing Reproduction for Anthropology. In Situating Fertility: Anthropology and Demographic Inquiry, Susan Greenhalgh, ed. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1995, pp. 259-263.

Engendering Reproductive Policy and Practice in Peasant China: For a Feminist Demography of Reproduction (with Jiali Li). Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, 20(3), Spring 1995, pp. 601-641.

Reprinted in Gender and Scientific Authority, Barbara Laslett, Sally Kohlstedt, Helen Longino, and
Evelynn Hammonds, eds. Chicago: University of Chicago Press, 1996, pp. 391-431.

De-Orientalizing the Chinese Family Firm. American Ethnologist, 21(4), November 1994, pp. 742-771.
Restraining Population Growth in Three Chinese Villages (with Zhu Chuzhu and Li Nan). Population and
Development Review, 20(2), June 1994, pp. 365-395.

Controlling Births and Bodies in Village China. American Ethnologist, 21(1), February 1994, pp. 1-30.
The Peasant Household in the Transition from Socialism: State Intervention and its Consequences in China.
In The Economic Anthropology of the State, Elizabeth Brumfiel, ed. Lanham: University Press of America, 1994, pp. 43-94.

The Peasantization of Population Policy in Shaanxi. In Chinese Families in the Post-Mao Era, Deborah Davis and Stevan Harrell, eds. Berkeley: University of California Press, 1993, pp. 219-250.

State-Society Links: The Politics of Population Policies and Programmes, with special reference to China. In
Family Planning Programmes and Fertility, James F. Phillips and John A. Ross, eds. Oxford: Oxford
University Press, 1992, pp. 276-298.

Population Studies in China: Privileged Past, Anxious Future. Reprinted in The Population of Modern China,
Dudley L. Poston, Jr. and David Yaukey, eds. New York: Plenum, 1992, pp. 19-46.

Nüxing Renkou Fenxi de Guoji Bijiao (Chinese Women in Comparative Perspective). In Zhongguo Nüxing
Renkou (Chinese Women), Zhu Chuzhu and Jiang Zhenghua, eds. Zhengzhou: Henan People's Press,
1991, pp. 314-338.

Toward a Political Economy of Fertility: Anthropological Contributions. Population and Development Review,
16(1), March 1990, pp. 85-106.

Translated and published as Vers Une Economie Politique de la Fecondite: Contributions Anthropologique.” In Les Theories de la Fecondite, Henri Leridon (ed.). Paris: Editions de L’Ined, coll. Textes Fondamentaux, 2014.

Reprinted in The Earthscan Reader in Population and Development, Paul Demeny and Geoffrey McNicoll, eds. London: Earthscan, 1998.

Socialism and Fertility in China. In World Population: Approaching the Year 2000, Special Issue of The
Annals of the American Academy of Political and Social Science, Samuel Preston, ed., July 1990, pp. 73-86.

Population Studies in China: Privileged Past, Anxious Future. The Australian Journal of Chinese Affairs, 24,
July 1990, pp. 357-384.

Reprinted in The Population of Modern China, Dudley L. Poston, Jr. and David Yaukey, eds. New York: Plenum, 1992, pp. 19-46.

The Evolution of the One-Child Policy in Shaanxi, 1979-88. The China Quarterly, 122, June 1990, pp. 191-

New Directions in Fertility Research: Anthropological Perspectives. In Proceedings of General Conference of IUSSP, New Delhi, 20-27 September 1989. Liege: IUSSP, vol. 3, pp. 437-449.

Nongcun Shengyü Xuqiu Fenxi (An Analysis of the Demand for Children in Rural China) (with Li Nan and
Jiang Zhenghua). Chinese Population Science (Zhongguo Renkou Kexue), 6, 1989, pp. 16-20, 25.

Social Causes and Consequences of Taiwan's Postwar Economic Development. In Anthropological Studies of the Taiwan Area: Accomplishments and Prospects, Kwang-chih Chang, Kuang-chou Li, Arthur P.
Wolf, and Alexander Chien-chung Yin, eds. Taipei: National Taiwan University Press, 1989, pp. 351-390.

Land Reform and Family Entrepreneurship in East Asia. In Population and Rural Development: Institutions
and Policies, Geoffrey McNicoll and Mead Cain, eds. Oxford: Oxford University Press, 1989, pp. 77- 118.

Chinese Family Policy: Negative Lessons for Sub-Saharan Africa. In Population Policy in Sub-Saharan
Africa: Drawing on International Experience. Liege: International Union for the Scientific Study of Population, 1989, pp. 591-630.

Fertility as Mobility: Sinic Transitions. Population and Development Review, 14(4), December 1988, pp. 629-

Families and Networks in Taiwan's Economic Development. In Contending Approaches to the Political
Economy of Taiwan, Edwin A. Winckler and Susan Greenhalgh, eds. Armonk, NY: M.E. Sharpe, 1988, pp. 224-245.

Reprinted in China, Korea, and Taiwan, vol. II, The Political Economy of East Asia, John Ravenhill, ed. Aldershot, UK: Edward Elgar Publ., 1995.

Analytical Issues and Historical Episodes (with Edwin A. Winckler). In Contending Approaches to the Political Economy of Taiwan, 1988, pp. 3-19.

Supranational Processes of Income Distribution. In Contending Approaches to the Political Economy of
Taiwan, 1988, pp. 67-100.

Intergenerational Contracts: Familial Roots of Sexual Stratification in Taiwan. In A Home Divided: Women
and Income in the Third World, Daisy Dwyer and Judith Bruce, eds. Stanford: Stanford University Press, 1988, pp. 39-70.

Fertility Policy in China: Future Options (with John Bongaarts). Science, 235, 6 March 1987, pp. 1167-1172.
Reprinted in The Population of Modern China, Dudley L. Poston, Jr. and David Yaukey, eds. New York: Plenum, 1992, pp. 401-419.

Shifts in China's Population Policy, 1984-1986: Views from the Central, Provincial and Local Levels. Population and Development Review, 12(3), September 1986, pp. 491-515.

An Alternative to the One-child Policy in China (with John Bongaarts). Population and Development Review,
11(4), December 1985, pp. 585-617.

Is Inequality Demographically Induced? The Family Cycle and the Distribution of Income in Taiwan. American Anthropologist, 87(3), September 1985, pp. 571-594.

Sexual Stratification: The Other Side of 'Growth with Equity' in East Asia. Population and Development
Review, 11(2), June 1985, pp. 265-314.

Networks and Their Nodes: Urban Society on Taiwan. The China Quarterly, 99, September 1984, pp. 529-

Income Units: The Ethnographic Alternative to Standardization. In Income Distribution and the Family,
Yoram Ben-Porath, ed. Supplement to Population and Development Review, 8, 1982, pp. 70-91.

Bound Feet, Hobbled Lives: Women in the Old China. Frontiers: Journal of Women Studies, 2(1), Spring
1977, pp. 7-21.

Fairbank Center for Chinese Studies