A lab focusing on the impact of social systems on the health of individuals and communities


Folded Into Lives

A conversation about the politics of listening and ethnography as an unfinished practice

Fields of Knowledge
  • Health / Sustainability
  • Public culture

Organizing Institutions

Slought, Health Ecologies Lab


Sheila Shankar, Aaron Levy

Opens to public





4017 Walnut St
Philadelphia, PA 19104

  • Care
  • Health
  • Listening

Slought and the Health Ecologies Lab are pleased to announce Folded Into Lives, a conversation with João Biehl and Kristen Ghodsee about the politics of listening and ethnography as an unfinished practice. The evening will conclude with a screening of Gary Hurst's CAtArINa's Dictionary (2017), a short film inspired by João Biehl's book, Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment, and its main protagonist Catarina Inês Gomes Moraes' attempt to address sexism, paternity, abuse and poverty. This event is presented with the Center for Public Health Initiatives (CPHI) and the Department of Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania.

In Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming (2018), co-edited with Peter Locke, Joao Biehl explores the volatility of life lived on the edge of fear and destruction: from environmental calamity, racial injustice and state violence, to chronic warfare and deadly health disparities. Bringing together critical ethnographic essays on a range of worlds on the edge, Biehl stresses the importance of listening to those for whom uncertainty and resilience are part of everyday life, and the affects, ideas, forces, and objects that shape their experience.

Kristen Ghodsee similarly documents the lives of ordinary men and women who have suffered from massive social and economic upheaval. Through ethnographic accounts of her own experiences in Eastern Europe from 1989 to the present, she describes the disastrous and disorienting effects of the region's rapid transition to postsocialism and the ravages of neoliberalism. In Red Hangover: Legacies of Twentieth-Century Communism (2017), she examines the legacies of twentieth-century communism twenty-five years after the Berlin Wall fell, while in Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life after Communism (2011) Ghodsee explores how this shift interrupted the rhythms of everyday lives, leaving behind confusion, frustration, and insecurity, and a nostalgia for life under the Soviet Union.

How can scholars tend to the open-endedness of people's lived realities? In dialogue at Slought, Biehl and Ghodsee will consider these and other questions, including the responsibilities of the ethnographer in recording histories of violence and dispossession, unimaginable loss, and the longing for transformation.

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João Biehl is Professor of Anthropology and Co-Director of Princeton University's Program in Global Health and Health Policy. He recently edited, with Peter Locke, Unfinished: The Anthropology of Becoming (2018).

Recent books include Will to Live: AIDS Therapies and the Politics of Survival (2009) and Vita: Life in a Zone of Social Abandonment (2013). These books are ethnographic studies of the experience and treatment of mental illness and AIDS, respectively. Both Vita and Will to Live explore new geographies of access and marginalization that have emerged alongside pharmaceutical globalization.

Kristen Ghodsee is Professor of Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pennsylvania specializing in the lived experience of communism and post-communism in Eastern Europe.

She is the author of seven books, including Lost in Transition: Ethnographies of Everyday Life after Communism (2011) and most recently Red Hangover: Legacies of 20th Century Communism (2017). Her articles and essays have appeared in Dissent, Foreign Affairs, Jacobin, and The New York Times.

"We tell stories that are as much material and political-economic as personal and ethical. We are always working outward: pulling into line with our subjects, moving sideways to follow them, getting out of their way, returning and sitting with them, drawing out characters, probing philosophical questions, bringing certain concepts into focus, and letting others emerge only partially, but meaningfully so.

Our storytelling destabilizes hierarchies of expertise and confuses the distinction between the finished and the unfinished, illuminating the ethnographic open systems in which anthropologists and subjects are entangled, folded into lives, transformations, and thinking across time and space."

— João Biehl and Peter Locke

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