Charles L. Briggs

University of California, Berkeley
Social and Behavioral Sciences
Anthropology and Archaeology

Charles L. Briggs, a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology, holds the Alan Dundes Distinguished Chair in Folklore. A linguistic and medical anthropologist, he has published several books on epidemics and racialized inequities and is co-director of the Medical Anthropology Program and co-director of the Berkeley Center for Social Medicine.

His interests include philosophical and ethnographic issues regarding how bodies, media, viruses and bacteria, narratives and songs, and race constantly get mixed up, sometimes fatally. He has engaged these issues by investigating epidemics of cholera and rabies in Venezuela, collaborating with patients, parents, doctors, nurses, healers, and epidemiologists to figure out why so many people die from preventable diseases. His concern with infectiousness spreads from microbes to narratives, to thinking about how stories about cholera, rabies, H1N1, Ebola, diabetes, and COVID-19 are produced and ways that their social lives shape the imaginations of policymakers, clinicians, journalists, and publics.

Briggs's books range from Learning to Ask (1986) - in which he proposed new techniques for designing, implementing, and analyzing interview-based research - to Unlearning Rethinking Poetics, Pandemics, and the Politics of Knowledge (2021) - which offers students, emerging scholars, and veteran researchers alike a guide for turning ethnographic objects into provocations for transforming time-worn theories and objects of analysis into sources of scholarly creativity, deep personal engagement, and efforts to confront unconscionable racial inequities. 

Last Updated