This website uses cookies to understand how you use the website and to improve your experience. By continuing to use the website, you accept the University of New England’s use of cookies and similar technologies. To learn more about our use of cookies and how to manage your browser cookie settings, please review our Privacy Notice.


Enduring Caregiving: The Moral Transformation of Ordinary People

Seminar Center for Global Humanities Lecture/Seminar Series

Arthur Kleinman

Arthur Kleinman, M.D.

Physician and Anthropologist, Harvard University

Central to human experience everywhere is caregiving. When carried out by family members and close friends for the most serious of illnesses, end-of-life states, and other health catastrophes, caregiving becomes a question of how ordinary people endure extraordinary conditions. This lecture will focus on what studies of caregiving (both lay and professional) tell us about this moral and emotional core of the human condition. The focus will be on the process by which caregivers “endure” the trials of caregiving as a parallel experience to the suffering experienced by care receivers, about which so much more is written. Rather than emphasize burnout, my emphasis is on how caregivers come to withstand, live through, and persist with even that which is unendurable. And by so doing, become transformed, sometimes in a detrimental way, yet often to enhance their human capabilities, gaining experiential insight into the frequently obscured way that we develop practical wisdom about the art of living and dying.


Arthur Kleinman, M.D. (born March 11, 1941) is a physician and anthropologist who is now in his thirty-seventh year at Harvard. A graduate of Stanford University and Stanford Medical School, with an M.A. in social anthropology from Harvard and trained in psychiatry at the Massachusetts General Hospital, Kleinman is a leading figure in several fields: medical anthropology, cultural psychiatry, global health, social medicine and medical humanities. He has conducted research in China from 1978 to the present, and in Taiwan from 1969 until 1978. In 1973 he taught Harvard’s first course in medical anthropology, and in 1982 he inaugurated Harvard’s Ph.D. program in medical anthropology.

He has supervised more than 75 Ph.D. students and over 200 postdoctoral fellows. He has also taught generations of Harvard undergraduates, medical students, M.A. students, and residents. Kleinman is the author of six books, co-author of two others, co-editor of nearly 30 volumes and eight special issues of journals, and author of over 300 articles, book chapters, reviews and introductions. Kleinman is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. The 2001 winner of the Franz Boas Award of the American Anthropological Association (its highest award), Kleinman is a Distinguished Lifetime Fellow of the American Psychiatric Association. He has twice given the Distinguished Lecture at NIH, and was until 2011, a member of its Council of Councils (the advisory board to the director).

For a decade, he chaired the Department of Social Medicine at Harvard Medical School and from 1993-2000 he was Presley Professor in that department. He is currently professor of medical anthropology and professor of psychiatry in the Harvard Medical School Department of Global Health and Social Medicine. From 2004 through 2007, he chaired Harvard’s Department of Anthropology (FAS), and since 2008 he has headed Harvard’s Asia Center as Victor and William Fung Director. Since 2002 he has served as Esther and Sidney Rabb Professor of Anthropology. Kleinman is also a Harvard College Professor of Harvard University and was given the Distinguished Faculty Award by the Harvard Foundation for 2011.

Kleinman is a member of the Institute of Medicine of the National Academies and the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. He chaired the selection committee for NIH’s first Pioneer Awards. Kleinman has delivered the Tanner Lectures at Stanford along with many other noted lectures including the Florey Lecture (University of Adelaide), the Beattie Smith Lecture (University of Melbourne), the Westermarck Lecture (Helsinki), the Hume Lecture (Yale), the Simon Lecture (Brown), and the William James Lecture (Harvard) on two occasions, among others. He is Honorary Professor at Fudan University (Shanghai), and has received an honorary doctorate of science from York University (Canada). A former Guggenheim Fellow, Kleinman has been Cleveringa Professor at University of Leiden and the Royal Society Visiting Professor at University of Hong Kong. He is a former winner of the Doubleday Award from the University of Manchester (UK); Imperial College, London’s Medical Humanities Excellence Award; the Elysio de Moura Medal, University of Coimbra (Portugal); the Royal Anthropological Institute’s (UK) Welcome Medal; and the Society of Medical Anthropology’s Career Achievement and George Foster Practicing Anthropology Award.

Kleinman was married to the late Joan Kleinman, a sinologist and his research collaborator, for 45 years. They have two children (Peter and Anne) and four grandchildren (Gabriel, Kendall, Allegra and Clayton).

Assigned Reading

Arthur Kleinman, What Really Matters: Living a Moral Life Amidst Uncertainty and Danger (Oxford University Press, 2006)


A reception will be held at 5:00 pm at the UNE Art Gallery


Center for Global Humanities


(207) 221-4435

Enduring Caregiving Poster
6:00 PM
WCHP Lecture Hall in Parker Pavilion

Portland Campus

Free and open to the public