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Karen Thornber, PhD

Acting Director, Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies

Author of "Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care"

Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature

Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations

Dr. Karen Thornber is a Professor of Comparative Literature and of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University and Acting Director of the Reischauer Institute of Japanese Studies. Her primary areas of research and teaching are comparative and world literature, the literatures and cultures of East Asia and the Indian Ocean Rim, and the environmental and medical humanities. Professor Thornber received her A.B. in Comparative Literature from Princeton University in 1996, with minors in East Asian Studies, Japanese Language and Literature, and Romance Languages and Literatures. She received her Ph.D. in 2006 from Harvard’s Department of East Asian Languages and Civilizations.

Professor Thornber’s book Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care analyzes how narratives from diverse communities globally and in languages from Afrikaans to Yiddish engage with a broad range of diseases and other serious health conditions and advocate for empathic, compassionate, and respectful care that facilitates healing and enables wellbeing. The three parts of Global Healing discuss writings from Africa, the Americas, Asia, Europe, the Middle East, and Oceania that implore societies to shatter the devastating social stigmas which prevent billions from accessing effective care; to increase the availability of quality person-focused healthcare; and to prioritize partnerships that facilitate healing and enable wellbeing for both patients and loved ones. Global Healing remaps the contours of comparative literature, world literature, the medical humanities, and the health humanities.