Assistant Professor Faculty Fellow of Social Science
Amir Hampel received his PhD from the University of Chicago's Department of Comparative Human Development in 2017. From 2018 to 2020, Amir was a postdoctoral fellow at Southern University of Science and Technology (南方科技大学) in Shenzhen, China, where he taught psychological and medical anthropology. Amir has conducted ethnographic and textual research on self-help psychology in China, focusing on social skills training programs that are popular with young urban professionals. This work has analyzed how Chinese youth use self-help training groups as spaces for experimenting with new forms of self-presentation as they try to secure a place in competitive social and economic markets. By studying young adults who are trying to change their personalities, this research investigates the construction of social class, emerging forms of cultural capital, and the sociocultural contexts of mental health. This work is also concerned with the impact of anxiety and shame on subjectivity, describing how these affects shape the ways that Chinese youth construct their identity. Amir’s research has also traced how Chinese self-help authors and psychotherapists are translating ‘social skills’, such as empathy and assertiveness, into an individualistic cultural politics that aims to construct a modern, civil polity. Amir is now beginning a research project about Chinese medicine for children diagnosed with developmental disorders, such as cognitive deficits and autism. This project is investigating historical and ethical dimensions of Chinese parenting; how experts produce knowledge about children’s mind-bodies; and how various actors theorize the connections between physical, social, and psychological development.