Adriana Petryna

Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor of Anthropology

University Museum Room 334





Ph.D. Anthropology, University of California, Berkeley; M.A. Anthropology & M.Arch., University of California, Berkeley; B.S. Architecture, University of Michigan, Ann Arbor.


Research Interests

I am dedicated to research and teaching in anthropological theory and methods, the social studies of science and technology, globalization and health, and medical anthropology. In my ethnographic studies, I have investigated the cultural and political dimensions of science and medicine in eastern Europe and in the United States (with a focus on the Chernobyl nuclear disaster and on clinical research and pharmaceutical globalization). My concerns center on public and private forms of scientific knowledge production, as well as on the role of science and technology in public policy (particularly in contexts of crisis, inequality, and political transition). I probe the social nature of scientific knowledge, how populations are enrolled in scientific experimentation, and what becomes of citizenship and ethics in that process. The anthropological method involves charting the lives of individuals and institutions over time through interviews, participation-observation, and comparative analysis. It illuminates fine-grained realities that are often more nuanced than those described by policy makers or captured in controlled experiments. The anthropological scrutiny of large-scale political and medical change always entails attending to how ordinary people—often encountering bewildering and overburdened systems—cobble together resources to protect their health and citizenship. This type of endeavor, involving interdisciplinary collaboration and rigor, aims to make science more responsive and accountable to the human enterprise. My courses have drawn students from anthropology, the history of science, business, engineering, nursing, political science, and the biological sciences (pre-med). Integrating ethnographic insights into my teaching helps students to orient themselves and their intellectual energies toward a variety of social problems and challenges.

Selected Publications

Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl (Princeton University Press, 2002. Tenth Anniversary paperback edition with a New Introduction, 2013).

  • Sharon Stephens First Book Prize, American Ethnological Society, American Anthropological Association, 2003 
  • New Millenium Book Award, Society for Medical Anthropology, 2006 
  • The Wellcome Medal for Anthropology as Applied to Medical Problems, Royal Anthropological Institute, 2014

Global Pharmaceuticals: Ethics, Markets, Practices, Edited by Adriana Petryna, Andrew Lakoff, Arthur Kleinman (Duke University Press, 2006).

When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials And The Global Search For Human Subject (Princeton University Press, 2009).

  • Diana Forsythe Prize, Honorable Mention, Committee on the Anthropology of Science, Technology, and Computing (CASTAC), 2014 

When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health, Edited by João Biehl & Adriana Petryna (Princeton University Press, 2013).  

  • See the When People Come First website here.
  • Read a review of When People Come First here.

Selected Publications

Risks of Citizenship and Fault Lines of Survival

Read the new introduction to the 2013 edition of Life Exposed

Peopling Global Health

The Right of Recovery

The Origins of Extinction

Ethical Variability

Clinical Trials Offshored: On Private Sector Science and Public Health

Biological Citizenship: The Science and Politics of Chernobyl-Exposed Populations

Chernobyl's Survivors: Paralyzed by Fatalism or Overlooked by Science? 

Read an interview with Dr. Adriana Petryna about When Experiments Travel

Read an interview with Dr. Adriana Petryna about Chernobyl and the Fukushima nuclear power plant accident

Recently Taught Courses


Cultures of Science and Technology; Local Biologies: Interactions between Biological and Cultural Systems; Pharmaceuticals and Global Health; Global Health; Anthropology of the Environment


Advanced Topics in Science and Technology; Theory in Contemporary Ethnography; Cultures of Medicine: Care at the Limits of Life and Death; Rethinking Healing; Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Culture and Society; Formations of the Public


Courses Taught

Courses Taught:

ANTH260 Cultures of Science and Technology

ANTH273 Global Health: Anthropological Perspectives

ANTH429 Anthropology of the Environment

ANTH617 Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Culture and Society

ANTH626 Medical Anthropology: Case Studies and Methods


Anthropology Department Faculty; Faculty Associate, History and Sociology of Science; Associate Member, Museum of Archaeology and Anthropology, University of Pennsylvania; Faculty Advisor, The Lauder Institute; Member, Graduate Group in International Studies





Faculty Status