• Lesley A. Sharp

    Barbara Chamberlain & Helen Chamberlain Josefsberg ‘30 Professor of Anthropology, Barnard College Senior Research Scientist in Sociomedical Sciences, Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University
    Department of Anthropology, Barnard College
    3009 Broadway, New York, NY 10027, United States
    +1 212 854 5428



    As a medical anthropologist by training, Sharp is most concerned with critical analyses of the symbolics of the human and, most recently, animal body, where her research sites range from cosmopolitan medical centers and laboratories within the United States and United Kingdom to urban sites in sub-Saharan Africa. From 1986 to 1995, her work as an Africanist was based within a plantation, and migrant urban center in northwest Madagascar, where her initial research addressed spirit mediumship and the gendered nature of healing. She later returned to the same site in the mid-1990s to examine other forms of affliction, most notably the effects of the state's short-lived socialist project in shaping the historical and political consciousness of Malagasy school youth.

    In 1991, Sharp initiated new research focusing on organ transplantation, procurement, and donation in the United States. Key foci include medical ideologies, body commodification, and the transformative properties of organ transplants specifically in reference to the social construction of the self. Subsequent work concerns the lives of scientists engaged in generating new, non-human sources of transplantable organs, including mechanical heart devices and xenotransplantation (where animals, and more particularly porcine and simian species, define potential sources of usable parts), a project that informs her current scholarship on moral thinking in experimental science, with an especially keen interest in the management, use, and care of laboratory animals.  This most recent project informs her most recent book Animal Ethos.  Sharp is the recipient of numerous external grants and four teaching prizes, including the 2008 New Millennium Book Award from the Society for Medical Anthropology for her book Strange Harvest; and, at Barnard, the Tow Family Award for Innovative and Outstanding Pedagogy, a Presidential Research Award, and the first endowed chair dedicated to anthropology.




    Animal Ethos: The Morality of Human-Animal Encounters in Experimental Lab Science (University of California Press, 2019)

    BioInsecurity and Vulnerability, edited with Nancy N. Chen (SAR Press, Santa Fe, 2014)

    The Transplant Imaginary:  Mechanical Parts, Animal Hearts, and Moral Thinking in Highly Experimental Science (University of California Press, 2013)

    Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies: Death, Mourning, and Scientific Desire in the Real of Human Organ Transfer (Columbia University Press 2007, based on the 2004 Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures)

    Strange Harvest: Organ Transplants, Denatured Bodies, and the Transformed Self (University of California Press, 2006); awarded the 2008 New Millennium Book Award by the Society for Medical Anthropology.

    The Sacrificed Generation: Youth, History, and the Colonized Mind in Madagascar (University of California Press, 2002)

    The Possessed and the Dispossessed: Spirits, Identity, and Power in a Madagascar Migrant Town (University of California Press, 1993)


    2016  “Sharing Amidst Scarcity:  The Commons as Innovative Transgression in Xeno- and Allotransplant Science,” IN Bodily Exchanges, Bioethics and Border Crossing:  Perspectives on Giving, Selling and Sharing Bodies, E. Malmqvist and K. Zeiler, eds., pp. 87-101,  London and New York:  Routledge.

    2015 “Ethnographic Burnout, Spirited Curiosity, and the Search for the Uncanny in Realms of Human Organ Transfer,” Biosocieties 10:264-7.

    2011 "Hybrid Bodies of the Scientific Imaginary,” for entry on "Hybridity," Companion to the Anthropology of the Body and Embodiment, Frances Mascia-Lees, ed., Companion to Anthropology Series, pp. 262-275, Wiley-Blackwell.

    2011 “Monkey Business,” for special collection on "Interspecies," Social Text, April, 106:43-69. 

    2011 “The Invisible Woman: The Bioaesthetics of Engineered Bodies,” Body & Society 17:1:1-30.

    2009 "Bioengineered Bodies and the Moral Imagination," The Lancet (Art of Medicine column), September 19, 374:970-1.

    2001 "Commodified Kin: Death, Mourning, and Competing Claims on the Bodies of Organ Donors in the United States," 103:112-133.

    2000 "The Commodification of the Body and its Parts". Annual Review of Anthropology.

    1999 "A Medical Anthropologist's View on Posttransplant Compliance and the Underground Economy of Medical Survival" Transplantation Proceedings.

    1995 "Organ Transplantation as Transformative Experience: Anthropological Insights into the Restructuring of the Self" Medical Anthropology Quarterly

    Academic Focus: 

    Anthropology and bioethics
    Symbolics of the human body
    Youth and identity politics
    Africa, including Madagascar
    Human organ transfer
    Body commodification

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