Alen Agaronov

Alen Agaronov

Department of Social and Behavioral Sciences (’20)
Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health
alen.agaronov [at]

Alen Agaronov is a global expert on remote research.

His NIH, non-funded project MEDITERRANEAN IMAGINARIES was a performance ethnography on the invention of The Mediterranean Diet, conducted from his Boston living room, basements at Harvard University, a science talk at an international conference, as well as a lake house in New Hampshire. Studies that grew from this project, including “ortho” (2017), “and life goes on, at least in 1965” (2019), “vacation, had to get away” (2019), and “breaking and mentoring” (2019) have resulted in several new discoveries that hold both theoretical and clinical implications for diet, chronic pain and fieldwork methods.

Alen’s work has also extensively contributed to current understandings of measured distance, social access, the agency of paperwork, and time travel, most notably in “it probably is not going to meet the definition of human subjects research” (2018), “I don’t think we can do much better than that” (2018), “the grass is always greener” (2019),“can you feel the love tonight” (2019), and “it has to remain unidentifiable”(2019), a series of experiments that serve as extensions to a larger project, ON BUREAUCRACY.

For his long-running project PLAY-DRIVE, Alen explored the contours of space travel from the corners of a lonely science poster session, a public park in New York City, and from his recollections of filmmaking as a child. The project’s three works – “catching social reality in flight” (2017), “alen needs to fly” (2018), and the not-so-well-received “school shooter” (2018) – drew examples of autobiography’s ability to increase public accessibility to the scientific genre of research, strengthen the everyday person’s ability to compete in epistemological credibility wars, and ultimately, build capacity for finding other ways of knowing. The works also highlighted the power of going off on a tangent in the scientific method to make discoveries that matter.

His latest project, I CAN’T STOP WORKING, explores concepts of labor, identity and tackiness. The first of these studies, “i’m the only caucasian here,” was completed in 2019. His current project, “remote research during a pandemc” (2020), is an effort to publicly communicate critical lessons learned about remote research over the course of his career – via live webinar.

Alen’s work has been shown at Harvard ArtLab, the Carpenter Center for Visual Arts at Harvard University, YouTube Livestream, and commissioned for annual meetings for the American Public Health Association, the American Anthropological Association, the American Ethnographic Association, and the Society for Visual Anthropology.

Alen is a Rose Service-Learning Fellow at Harvard Chan and New Civics Scholar at the Harvard Graduate School of Education. His education, research, and pedagogy stretch across public health, anthropology, civic education, aesthetic philosophy, entrepreneurship and critical media. His skills are in video-documented performance ethnography, phenomenology, public science, and program design and evaluation, with an edge towards implementation science. His dissertation research involves three studies of three different teams of scientists working with local communities, corporate partners and alone, and a fourth study psychometrically exploring the structure of worker happiness.

Alen’s mission is to better integrate the arts and humanities into the health sciences to query the scope of research into abstract concepts such as diet, pain, labor, science, bureaucracy, and remoteness. He finds that doing so will help legitimize certain sub-fields of public health, such as public science, that lack a credible language in the biomedical and social sciences. Alen most closely identifies with the Medical Humanities.

Alen grew up in the neighborhood of Kings Highway in Brooklyn, New York. He arrived to the United States in 1992 from Azerbaijan, a former Soviet republic located in the Caucasus, which inspired the title of his 2019 piece, “i’m the only caucasian here.”

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Photo credits to Joyce Fung, Harvard College (’20).