Faculty Associate


João Biehl

Professor of Anthropology
Co-director Program in Global Health and Health Policy

128 Aaron Burr
phone: 609-258-6327

João Biehl is Professor of Anthropology. His main research and teaching interests center on medical anthropology, the social studies of science and religion, global health, and ethnographic methods and theory. Biehl is the co-Director of Princeton’s Program in Global Health and Health Policy.

Before joining the Princeton faculty in 2001, Biehl was a National Institute of Mental Health postdoctoral fellow at Harvard University in the Departments of Anthropology and Social Medicine (1998–2000). He earned a doctorate in Anthropology from the University of California at Berkeley (1999) and a doctorate in Religion from the Graduate Theological Union (1996).

In recent years, Biehl authored Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment and Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival. Vita garnered six major book awards, including the 2007 Margaret Mead Award of the American Anthropological Association. Will to Live received the 2008 Diana Forsythe Prize of the American Anthropological Association. Biehl received the Rudolph Virchow Award for his articles “The Activist State” and “Pharmaceuticalization.” Biehl is also the co-editor of Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations. 

Biehl’s research has been supported by grants from the Guggenheim, MacArthur, Wenner-Gren and Ford Foundations and by Princeton's Grand Challenges Initiative in Global Health and Infectious Disease. He held the Harold Willis Dodds Presidential Preceptorship and was a member of the School of Social Science and of the School of Historical Studies of the Institute for Advanced Study. He was also a member of the Center for Theological Inquiry and a visiting professor at the École des hautes études en sciences sociales. Biehl received Princeton’s Presidential Distinguished Teaching Award in 2005.

Biehl is currently writing the history of a religious war—the Mucker war—that took place among German immigrants in 19th century Brazil.  He is also co-editing a book on evidence, theory, and advocacy in global health. His current research explores the social impact of large-scale treatment programs in resource-poor settings and the role of the judiciary in administering public health.



 Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2007.

 Subjectivity: Ethnographic Investigations (João Biehl, Byron Good, Arthur Kleinman). Berkeley: University of California Press, 2007.

 Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2005.



 “Judicialisation and the Right to Health in Brazil” (Biehl J, Petryna A, Gertner A, Amon JJ, Picon PD). The Lancet, 2009, 373: 2182-84.

 “Accès du traitement du sida, marches des medicaments et citoyenneté dans le Brésil d’aujourd’hui.” Sciences Sociales et Santé, 2009, 27(3): 13-46.

 “Symptom: Subjectivities, Social Ills, Technologies” (with Amy Moran-Thomas). Annual Review of Anthropology, 2009, 38: 267-88.

 "Drugs for All: The Future of Global AIDS Treatment." Medical Anthropology, 2008, 27(2):1-7.

 “Pharmaceuticalization: AIDS Treatment and Global Health Politics.” Anthropological Quarterly, 2007, 80(4):1083-1126.

"Ex-Human: Reflections on Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment.” City & Society, 2007, 19(1):81-85.

 “Will To Live: AIDS Drugs and Local Economies of Salvation” (a photographic essay with Torben Eskerod). Public Culture, 2006, 18(3):457-472.

 “Life of the Mind: The Interface of Psychopharmaceuticals, Domestic Economies, and Social Abandonment.” American Ethnologist, 2004, 31 (4): 475-496.

 “The Activist State: Global Pharmaceuticals, AIDS, and Citizenship in Brazil.” Social Text, 2004, 22(3):105-132.

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