Article Text

Download PDFPDF
Borderlands: professional life lived precariously but happily in anthropology and medicine
  1. Arthur Kleinman1,2
  1. 1
    Faculty of Arts and Sciences, Harvard University, Cambridge, MA, USA
  2. 2
    Department of Global Health and Social Medicine, Harvard Medical School, Cambridge, MA, USA
  1. Professor A Kleinman, William James Hall Room 330, 33 Kirkland Street, Cambridge MA 02138, USA; kleinman{at}

Statistics from

Request Permissions

If you wish to reuse any or all of this article please use the link below which will take you to the Copyright Clearance Center’s RightsLink service. You will be able to get a quick price and instant permission to reuse the content in many different ways.

The image I have in my mind of interdisciplinarity is of precarious professional existence like walking on a tightrope stretched across the Grand Canyon between two greatly distinctive domains. But in fact my way of working in the borderland over 33 years at Harvard has been different. I have conducted academic practice with varying intensity at different stages of my career on either side of the great divide between social science and medicine, or more broadly put in terms of the two cultures that rule the academy: between interpretive and materialist orders.

On the medical side, I have practised and taught psychiatry, chaired a social medicine department, and built, along with colleagues, a medical anthropology and global mental health training programme with more than 200 postdoctoral fellows and a generation of medical students. That I was in the 1990s the Presley Professor …

View Full Text


  • Competing interests: None.