Karen Thornber is Harry Tuchman Levin Professor in Literature and Professor of East Asian Languages and Civilizations at Harvard University. She is the author of three major international-award winning scholarly monographs, Empire of Texts in Motion: Chinese, Korean, and Taiwanese Transculturations of Japanese Literature (Harvard, 2009); Ecoambiguity: Environmental Crises and East Asian Literatures (Michigan, 2012); and Global Healing: Literature, Advocacy, Care (Brill, 2020). She edited a special issue of Literature and Medicine on world literature and health, co-edited a special issue of the Journal of World Literature on trans-regional Asia and futures of world literature, a special issue of Humanities on global indigeneities and environment (published also as a separate volume), and a volume on The Poetics of Aging in the Japanese Narrative Arts, Thornber has in addition published more than 70 articles on comparative and world literature, East Asian literatures and cultures, the environmental humanities, the health humanities, the medical humanities, the literatures and cultures of the Indian Ocean Rim, diaspora, gender, indigeneities, postcolonialism, transculturation, and trauma. Current projects include books on Asian feminisms; global mental health and inequality; and inequality, technology, and culture in the Pacific Rim.

Thornber has served in a variety of leadership roles at Harvard, including Victor and William Fung Director of the Harvard Asia Center, Director of the Harvard Global Institute Environmental Humanities and Social Sciences Initiative, Chair of the Department of Comparative Literature, Chair of the Program in Regional Studies East Asia (RSEA), and Director of Graduate Studies in both Comparative Literature and RSEA. She was Conference Chair of the 2016 American Comparative Literature Association Annual Meeting, the largest conference ever held at Harvard (3,500 speaker-participants).

Last Updated: February 5, 2020



What Should China Do about Its Aging Population?

Wang Feng, Karen Thornber & more
Though it has yet to be released, China’s latest ten-year census is certain to confirm what demographers have warned of for years: A labor crisis looms as the fertility rate remains low and the country ages at a dangerous speed. Five years after the...



What a Picture of China’s One-Child Policy Leaves Out

Jie Li, Susan Greenhalgh & more
Brainwashed? Reflections on Propaganda in One Child NationBy Jie LiOne Child Nation, a documentary distributed by Amazon Studios which was shortlisted for an Academy Award, is becoming one of the most influential films about China in the United...