Adriana Petryna

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

Ph.D. University of California, Berkeley

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.



Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl (Princeton University Press, 2002). Adriana Petryna. New in paper with a new introduction (2013).

  • 2006 Millenium Award, Society of Medical Anthropology
  • 2003 Sharon Stephens First Book Prize, American Ethnological Society

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).

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 Articles:

Ethical Variability (pdf)

Clinical Trials Offshored: On Private Sector Science and Public Health (pdf)

Sarcophagus: Chernobyl in Historical Light (pdf)

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

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

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

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

Read the new introduction to the 2013 edition of Life Exposed here.

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


Book Images



University Museum Room 334




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