Adriana Petryna

Professor of Anthropology; Director, MD-PhD Program in Anthropology

University Museum Room 334


 Adriana Petryna is the Edmund J. and Louise W. Kahn Term Professor in Anthropology at the University of Pennsylvania. In her ethnographic studies in Eastern Europe and the United States, she probes the socio-political natures of science, how populations are enrolled in experimental knowledge-production, and what becomes of citizenship and ethics in that process. She is the author of the award-winning books, including Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl and When Experiments Travel: Clinical Trials and the Global Search for Human Subjects, and is co-editor of Global Pharmaceuticals: Ethics, Markets, Practices and When People Come First: Critical Studies in Global Health. Petryna’s explorations of biological citizenship, ethical variability, and experimentality broke new ground in the social sciences and advances the critical study of global health. In her new book project, What is a Horizon? Abrupt Climate Change and Human Futures, she focuses on the complexities of abrupt environmental shifts and argues for horizoning as a distinct intellectual and ethical labor. A recently named Guggenheim Fellow, Petryna’s research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Endowment for the Humanities, the Wenner-Gren Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, and the School for Advanced Research. She was a Member of the School of Social Science at the Institute for Advanced Study and a Faculty Fellow at Princeton University’s Center for Human Values. At Penn, Dr. Petryna directs the MD-PhD program in Anthropology and the undergraduate concentration in Medical Anthropology and Global Health.


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


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 Millennium 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.

What is a Horizon? Abrupt Climate Change and Human Futures (in preparation)


Selected Essays

"Wildfires at the Edges of Science: Horizoning Work amid Runaway Change," 2018, Cultural Anthropology, Vol. 33, Issue 4, pp. 570-595.

"Searches for Livability: An Interview with Adriana Petryna," Cultural Anthropology. Feb 6, 2019. Interview by Pablo Seward Delaporte and Sonia A. P. Grant (supplement to research article "Wildfires at the Edges of Science: Horizoning Work amid Runaway Change," published in Cultural Anthropology in November 2018).

"On the Nature of Catastrophic Forms" with Paul W. Mitchell. BioSocieties. 2017. 2(3):343-366.

What is a Horizon? Navigating Thresholds in Climate Change Uncertainty,” Modes of Uncertainty: Anthropological Cases. P. Rabinow and L. Samimian-Darash, eds. Chicago University Press. 2015:147-164.

"Risks of Citizenship and Fault Lines of Survival" with K. Follis. Annual Review of Anthropology. 2015. 44:401-417.

How Did They Survive?” New Introduction for Tenth Anniversary paperback edition of Life Exposed: Biological Citizens after Chernobyl. Princeton: Princeton University Press, 2013:1-19.

"Peopling Global Health" (with J. Biehl), Revista Saúde e Sociedade. 2014. 23 (2):376-389.

"The Right of Recovery," Current Anthropology (based on Wenner-Gren Symposium, The Anthropology of Potentiality). 2013, 54(S7):S67-S76.

"The Origins of ExtinctionLimn, 2013:50-53.

Paradigms of Expected Failure,” Dialectical Anthropology, 2010, 34:57–65.

"Ethical Variability: Drug Development and the Globalization of Clinical Trials.” American Ethnologist, 2005, 32(2):183-197. 

"Clinical Trials Offshored: On Private Sector Science and Public Health." BioSocieties, 2007, 2:21-40.

"Biological Citizenship: The Science and Politics of Chernobyl-Exposed Populations." Osiris, 2004, 19: 250-265.

"Chernobyl's Survivors: Paralyzed by Fatalism or Overlooked by Science?" Bulletin of the Atomic Scientists. March/April 2011 67: 30-37.

Nuclear Payouts: Knowledge and Compensation in the Chernobyl Aftermath,” Anthropology Now, 2009, 1(2):30-40.

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

Read about "Philly as lab, classroom, and collaborator"

Read about the MD-PhD Program in Anthropology


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

ANTH238 Introduction to Medical Anthropology

ANTH554 Truth, Politics, Ethics: Anthropological Cases

ANTH617 Contemporary Approaches to the Study of Culture and Society

ANTH273 Global Health: Anthropological Perspectives

ANTH429 Anthropology of the Environment


Anthropology Department Faculty; Faculty Associate, History and Sociology of Science; Faculty Advisor, The Lauder Institute; Penn Program in Environmental Humanities Faculty Working Group; MD-PhD Program Anthropology; Russian and East European Studies



Faculty Status