Alen uses art practice and theories of aesthetics to address questions of science, knowledge production, and bureaucracy in higher education. He uses methods common to his discipline of public health, like participatory action research and epidemiology, as phenomena by which to explore how science shapes how we think about health. Part of his work is invested in debates about what makes some forms of science appear more or less legitimate than others. Focusing on public science, his research explores how science’s more aesthetic sensibilities can resolve credibility contests that are otherwise dominated by a techno-scientific vernacular. Alen is also concerned with how nutrition science ascribes meaning to what health is and can be. His research traces the discovery, translation, and promotion of The Mediterranean Diet to explore how neglect over its sensory-aesthetic qualities puts disproportionately more emphasis on The Diet’s biomedical disease implications than “health itself.” Performance, sculpture, video, and writing are all tools that help Alen make explicit the humanism in public health epidemiology.
Alen is a doctoral student at the Harvard T.H. Chan School of Public Health in the Department of Social & Behavioral Sciences with a secondary field in Critical Media Practice. He is also a New Civics Scholar through the Harvard Graduate School of Education. Alen grew up in Kings Highway, Brooklyn. He arrived to the U.S. under refugee status in 1992 from Baku, Azerbaijan, a republic of the former Soviet Union.