Matthew Kohrman joined Stanford’s faculty in 1999. His research and writing bring multiple methods to bear on the ways health, culture, and politics are interrelated. Focusing on the People's Republic of China, he engages various intellectual terrains such as governmentality, gender theory, political economy, critical science studies, and embodiment. His first monograph, Bodies of Difference: Experiences of Disability and Institutional Advocacy in the Making of Modern China, examines links between the emergence of a state-sponsored disability-advocacy organization and the lives of Chinese men who have trouble walking. In recent years, Kohrman has been conducting research projects aimed at analyzing and intervening in the biopolitics of cigarette smoking and production. These projects expand upon analytical themes of Kohrman’s disability research and engage in novel ways techniques of public health.

Academic Appointments

Administrative Appointments

  • Senior Fellow, Center for Innovation in Global Health, Stanford University School of Medicine (2015 - Present)

Program Affiliations

  • Center for East Asian Studies
  • Modern Thought and Literature

2021-22 Courses

Stanford Advisees

All Publications

  • Smoking intensity among male factory workers in Kunming, China. Asia-Pacific journal of public health Cheng, K., Tsoh, J. Y., Cui, W., Li, X., Kohrman, M. 2015; 27 (2): NP606-15


    This study investigated the intensity of cigarette consumption and its correlates in China among urban male factory workers, a cohort especially vulnerable to tobacco exposure, one that appears to have benefitted little from recent public health efforts to reduce smoking rates.Data were collected from men working in factories of Kunming city, Yunnan, China, who are current daily smokers (N = 490). A multinomial logistic regression was conducted to examine the factors in association with smoking intensity in light, moderate, and heavy levels.Light smoking correlated with social smoking, smoking the first cigarette later in the day, self-reported health condition, and quit intention. Heavy smoking was associated with purchase of lower priced cigarettes, difficulty refraining from smoking, and prehypertensive blood pressure.Even in regions where smoking is highly prevalent, even among cohorts who smoke heavily, variation exists in how cigarettes are consumed. Analyses of this consumption, with special consideration given to smoking intensity and its correlates, can help guide tobacco-control strategists in developing more effective interventions.

    View details for DOI 10.1177/1010539513483826

    View details for PubMedID 23572373

    View details for PubMedCentralID PMC4167973

  • Cloaks and Veils: Countervisualizing Cigarette Factories In and Outside of China Anthropological Quarterly Kohrman, M. 2015; 88 (4): 907-939
  • Tobacco ANNUAL REVIEW OF ANTHROPOLOGY, VOL 40 Kohrman, M., Benson, P. 2011; 40: 329-344
  • New Steps for Tobacco Control In and Outside of China International Conference on Global Health and the United Arab Emirates - Asia-Middle East Connections Kohrman, M. SAGE PUBLICATIONS INC. 2010: 189S–196S


    In China during the last decade, citizens have rarely agitated against the ubiquity of cigarettes, at the same time that tobacco products have been responsible for killing more than a million people a year and tobacco-control programs have been enjoying a marked growth in logistical support, discursive attention, and funding. In this article, the author argues that China's ongoing popular quiescence regarding tobacco stems in part from strategic miscalculations that public health advocates are making. Favoring conceptual logics of expertise, population management, health economics, disease etiology, and rational choice, tobacco control in China is leaving unproblematized the political economic sources of cigarettes, the social suffering tobacco generates, and the ethics, everyday practices, and desires binding citizens and cigarettes together into webs of sociality. Bringing anthropological research to bear, the article describes ways that these strategic miscalculations have unfolded and makes suggestions for alternative ways that public health advocates can help Chinese citizens achieve the collective purpose to repudiate tobacco.

    View details for PubMedID 20566553

  • Anthropology in China's health promotion and tobacco LANCET Xiao, S., Kohrman, M. 2008; 372 (9650): 1617-1618
  • Smoking among doctors: Governmentality, embodiment, and the diversion of blame in contemporary China MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY Kohrman, M. 2008; 27 (1): 9-42


    How and to what effect have physicians in China become frequent cigarette smokers and blamed as engines of nationwide tobacco-induced suffering? Building on governmentality heuristics, I argue that multilevel interactions of biopolitics and male embodiment have been especially significant in shaping these phenomena. Of the effects gleaned in my fieldwork ongoing since 2003, the most important is a deflection of responsibility for tobacco-induced death away from incoherent leadership decisions--some aimed at protecting Chinese citizens from tobacco, others at facilitating trillions of cigarettes being sold annually in the PRC--made over recent years in and outside the country.

    View details for DOI 10.1080/01459740701831401

    View details for Web of Science ID 000253096800003

    View details for PubMedID 18266170

  • Why am I not disabled? Making state subjects, making statistics in post-mao China MEDICAL ANTHROPOLOGY QUARTERLY Kohrman, M. 2003; 17 (1): 5-24


    In this article I examine how and why disability was defined and statistically quantified by China's party-state in the late 1980s. I describe the unfolding of a particular epidemiological undertaking--China's 1987 National Sample Survey of Disabled Persons--as well as the ways the survey was an extension of what Ian Hacking has called modernity's "avalanche of numbers." I argue that, to a large degree, what fueled and shaped the 1987 survey's codification and quantification of disability was how Chinese officials were incited to shape their own identities as they negotiated an array of social, political, and ethical forces, which were at once national and transnational in orientation.

    View details for Web of Science ID 000181417400002

    View details for PubMedID 12703387

  • Authorizing a disability agency in post-Mao China: Deng Pufang's story as biomythography CULTURAL ANTHROPOLOGY Kohrman, M. 2003; 18 (1): 99-131
  • Grooming que zi: marriage exclusion and identity formation among disabled men in contemporary China 94th Annual Meeting of the American-Anthropological-Association (AAA) Kohrman, M. BLACKWELL PUBLISHING. 1999: 890–909