Shigehisa Kuriyama

Reischauer Institute Professor of Cultural History


Professor Kuriyama (栗山茂久) explores broad philosophical issues (being and time, representations and reality, knowing and feeling) through the lens of specific topics in comparative medical history (Japan, China, and Europe). His recent work includes studies on the imagination of strings in the metaphysics and experience of presence, the visceral fear of excrement in Western medicine, the transformation of money into a palpable humor in Edo Japan, the nature of hiddenness in traditional Chinese medicine, and the surprising web of connections binding the histories of ginseng, opium, tea, silver, and MSG.

Since joining the faculty in 2005, he has also been actively engaged in expanding the horizons of teaching and scholarly communication through the creative use of digital technologies. He was a pioneer in the development of course trailers at Harvard, founded the Harvard Shorts competition for scholarly clips, and has held workshops on multimedia presentations of research for faculty and students at many universities around the world. His book, The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine (Zone, 1999), received the 2001 William H. Welch Medal of the American Association for the History of Medicine, and has been translated into Chinese, Greek, Spanish, and Korean. He currently serves on the FAS Standing Committee on IT, the Advisory Committee for the secondary Ph.D. field in Critical Media Practice, and is a Senior Researcher at Harvard’s metaLAB.

Research interests: comparative cultural history; techniques and styles of presenting knowledge; the relationship between money and the body in Edo era Japan; the history of presence.

Selected Publications


  • The Expressiveness of the Body and the Divergence of Greek and Chinese Medicine (1999)

Recent Articles and Chapters

  • Kuriyama, Shigehisa. Harvard Journal of Asiatic Studies 73, no. 1 (2013): 190–94.
  • Kuriyama, Shigehisa, and Miranda Brown. Bulletin of the History of Medicine 90, no. 3 (2016): 543–44.
  • Kuriyama, Shigehisa. “When Money Became a Humour.” In The Body in Balance: Humoral Medicines in Practice, edited by Peregrine Horden and Elisabeth Hsu, 1st ed., 69–86. Berghahn Books, 2013.