Arthur Kleinman

Arthur Kleinman

Arthur Kleinman (born March 11, 1941)[1] is a prominent American psychiatrist and is the Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of medical anthropology and cross-cultural psychiatry at Harvard University, USA. He is well known for his work on mental illness in Chinese culture, was the chair of the Harvard Department of Anthropology from 2004–07 and currently serves as Director of the Harvard University Asia Center. Kleinman is married to Joan Kleinman, a sinologist at Harvard.

Since 1968, Kleinman has conducted research in Chinese society, first in Taiwan, and since 1978 in China, on depression, somatization, epilepsy, schizophrenia and suicide, and other forms of violence. He has written on the intersection of public health and international issues as well as social suffering, on cross-cultural psychiatry, and on the individual experience of pain and disability.

Kleinman has done much to demonstrate that mental distress is much more likely to be expressed as somatized distress (i.e. as a bodily ailment) than as psychological distress by Chinese or East Asian patients. He has also contributed to anthropological and medical understanding of culture-bound syndromes, particularly in Chinese and East Asian culture (such as Koro).

In 1976, he founded the journal Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry,[2] and was its Editor-in-Chief until 1986.[3] The journal was continued by Byron and Mary-Jo Good, and Peter J. Guarnaccia.[4]

Kleinman has co-authored many works with other celebrated psychiatrists and researchers in the field of mental health and cross-cultural psychiatry, including Paul Farmer, Veena Das, Margaret Lock, Michael Phillips, Byron Good, Mary Delvecchio Good, Tsung-yi Lin, and Leon Eisenberg. Perhaps Kleinman's most influential work is Patients and healers in the context of culture (1980), a groundbreaking work of medical anthropology, followed by The Illness Narratives: suffering, healing, and the human condition (1988) and Social origins of distress and disease: depression, neurasthenia, and pain in modern China (1986).

Kleinman is a member of the Institute of Medicine at the National Academy of Science; and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He has delivered numerous lectures on a variety of topics at universities around the world. Most recently, his talks have been on the subject of moral experience. He has been a fellow of the Guggenheim Foundation and the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences (Stanford). He was awarded an honorary professorship at Fudan University. Shortly thereafter, he was Cleveringa Professor at the University of Leiden in the Netherlands.

He directed the World Mental Health Report, co-chaired the American Psychiatric Association’s Taskforce on Culture and DSM-IV, co-chaired the 2002 Institute of Medicine report on Preventing Suicide, and also co-chaired in 2001 and 2002 both the NIH conference on the Science and Ethics of the Placebo and the NIH conference on Stigma. In September 2003, he gave the Distinguished Lecture sponsored by the Fogarty International Center at NIH on the Global Epidemic of Depression and Suicide. He is a consultant to the WHO where he chaired the technical advisory committee of the Nations for Mental Health Action Program and in December 2002 gave the keynote address to the WHO’s first international conference on global mental health research. He is a winner of the Wellcome Prize of the Royal Anthropological Institute; a recipient of an honorary Doctorate of Science from York University (Canada); and the 2001 winner of the Franz Boas Award of the American Anthropological Association, its highest award. He is a Distinguished Life Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. His most recent book, What Really Matters, (Oxford University Press, 2006) addresses existential dangers and uncertainties that make moral experience, religion, and ethics so crucial to individuals and society today. This book has been translated and published in Chinese editions both in Shanghai and Taipei.

In September 2003, he co-directed a conference at Harvard on SARS in China; and in the 2003-2004 academic year he co-directed a Conference at Harvard on AIDS in China. In December 2006, he co-directed an NSF funded international meeting on Asian Flus/Avian Flu and in May 2007 he co-chaired a conference on Values in Global Health. He is a member of the Steering Committee of Harvard’s Fairbank Center for East Asian Research, is a member of the Advisory Board of the Harvard-Yenching Institute, and is on the Steering Committee of Harvard’s newly created China fund. He was also appointed to the Dean’s Advisory Council in Social Sciences. A member of the Steering Committee of the Harvard Institute of Global Health, Kleinman is co-chair of its Committee on Mental Health and of the Faculty of Arts and Sciences Standing Committee on Global Health.

In 2006 Arthur Kleinman received the Lifetime Achievement Award from the Doubleday Medal in Medical Humanities by University of Manchester, England. In 2007 he received an award in the medical humanities at Imperial College, London. He was also appointed by the Secretary of the Department of Health and Human Services of the U.S. Government to the Advisory Council of the Fogarty International Center, National Institutes of Health. In 2003 Kleinman chaired the Selection Committee for the NIH’s new Pioneer Awards; and in 2007 he was appointed to the NIH’s Council of Councils.

Arthur Kleinman received his A.B. and M.D. from Stanford University and M.A. in Social Anthropology from Harvard. He did an internship in internal medicine at Yale and his psychiatric residency at the Massachusetts General Hospital. He has supervised more than 65 Ph.D. students (including 12 M.D.-Ph.D. students), and worked with more than 200 post-doctoral fellows, and he has taught hundreds of medical students and undergraduate students. Kleinman has received more than 50 research grants, and is currently involved in various research projects in China studying depression; stigma; suicide; and the health consequences of rural-urban migration.

Selected list of published works

  • Medicine in Chinese cultures : comparative studies of health care in Chinese and other societies: papers and discussions from a conference held in Seattle, Washington, U.S.A., February 1974 / edited by Arthur Kleinman ... [et al.]. -- U.S. Dept. of Health, Education, and Welfare, Public Health Service, National Institutes of Health, 1975.
  • Culture and healing in Asian societies : anthropological, psychiatric, and public health studies / edited by Arthur Kleinman ... [et al.]. - - G.K. Hall, 1978
  • Normal and abnormal behavior in Chinese culture / edited by Arthur Kleinman and Tsung-yi Lin. -- D. Reidel, 1981. -- (Culture, illness, and healing / editor-in-chief, Arthur Kleinman ; v. 2)
  • Patients and healers in the context of culture : an exploration of the borderland between anthropology, medicine, and psychiatry / Arthur Kleinman. -- University of California Press, 1980.
  • Culture and depression : studies in the anthropology and cross-cultura l psychiatry of affect and disorder / edited by Arthur Kleinman and Byron Good. -- University of California Press, 1985. --
  • Social origins of distress and disease : depression, neurasthenia, and pain in modern China / Kleinman—Yale Univ ersity Press, 1986
  • The illness narratives: suffering, healing, and the human condition / Kleinman—Basic Books, 1988
  • Rethinking psychiatry : from cultural category to personal experience / Kleinman ; Free Press, 1991 ISBN 0-02-917441-4
  • Social suffering / edited by Kleinman, Veena Das, and Margaret Lock—University of California Press, 1997 & Oxford University Press, 1997
  • Writing at the margin : discourse between anthropology and medicine / Kleinman. -- University of California Press, 1995
  • What really matters: living a moral life amidst uncertainty and danger / Kleinman—Oxford University Press, 2006. Translated into Chinese: Shanghai Joint Publishing Company, Shanghai, P.R. China, 2007; translated in Chinese: PsyGarden Publishing Company, Taiwan, 2007

Further reading


  1. ^
  2. ^ "Culture, medicine and psychiatry: Twenty years and more",  
  3. ^ Arthur Kleinman, Curriculum Vitae (PDF), retrieved 26 May 2010 
  4. ^ Peter J. Guarnaccia (2003), "Editorial",  

Mitsuho Ikeda (2002). "Bibliography of Arthur Kleinman, 1941-". Archived from the original on 2006-01-17. Retrieved 2006-04-13. 

  • "Department of Social Medicine People". Harvard Medical School. Archived from the original on 17 January 2007. Retrieved 2006-12-16.