Mei Zhan

Cite as:

Woodruff, Maggie. 2018. “Mei Zhan.” In UCI Anthro Faculty, edited by James Adams and Maggie Woodruff.  In UCI Anthro STS, edited by James Adams and Maggie Woodruff. In STS Across Borders Digital Exhibit, edited by Aalok Khandekar and Kim Fortun. Society for Social Studies of Science. August.

Essay Metanarrative

Mei Zhan is an Associate Professor in the University of California - Irvine's Department of Anthropology. Her work is concerned with what traditional Chinese medicine in Shanghai and the San Francisco Bay Area can tell us about globalization, transnationalism, and the formation of knowledges, identities, and communities. She is especially interested in bringing medical anthropology and science and technology studies in conversation with feminism, humanism/posthumanism, theory and methodology, and China studies.

This PECE essay helps to answer the STS Across Borders analytic question: “What people, projects, and products exemplify how this STS formation has developed over time?”

This essay is part of a broader exhibit on UCI Anthro STS.

STS Across Borders In Brief

STS Across Borders is a special exhibit organized by the Society for Social Studies of Science (4S) to showcase how the field of Science and Technology Studies (STS) has developed in different times, places...Read more

Who is Mei Zhan?

Interview with Mei Zhan, May 2018

Mei Zhan has been crossing boundaries from the beginning. As an undergraduate student at Scripps College, she got a "heavy dose" in feminism; this perspective, as well as her classes in anthropology, economics, and biology led her to approach traditional Chinese medicine from new angles. Being part of a laboratory research project on the effect of Chinese herbs on lung cancer cells lead her to wonder about the production of knowledge in the lab versus in textbooks. At the time Zhan began to develop an ethnographic interest in traditional Chinese medicine, it was largely the subject of medical anthropology rather than STS, as traditional Chinese medicine didn't readily "lay claim" to science.  Additionally, "anthropology was a latecomer in science studies," after disciplines like philosophy, history, and sociology. All these factors made traditional Chinese medicine an unusual choice of study from Zhan's approach. Yet it is her methodology, even more than her subject matter, that engages with STS genealogies, Zhan asserts. 
Recalling Bruno Latour's book We Have Never Been Modern in which he emphasized boundary crossing as anthropology's unique contribution to STS, Zhan says, "there are actually a lot of things in common between feminist anthropology and STS ... the feminist project has always been about boundary crossing."

Zhan, Mei. Interview by Maggie Woodruff. Personal interview. Irvine, CA, May 30, 2018.

What books made you say, "Aha," Mei?

Asked what books lead to an "aha" moment, Mei Zhan offered these:

  • Donna Haraway, Primate Visions: Gender, Race, and Nature in the World of Modern Science

  • Bruno Latour, We Have Never Been Modern

  • ...Read more