Peter Redfield is Professor of Anthropology and Erburu Chair in Ethics, Globalization and Development at the University of Southern California. Trained as a cultural anthropologist sympathetic to history, he concentrates on circulations of science, technology and medicine in colonial and postcolonial contexts. The author of Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors Without Borders (University of California Press 2013) and Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana (University of California Press 2000), he is also coeditor of Forces of Compassion: Humanitarianism between Ethics and Politics (SAR Press 2011), and an issue of the journal Limn (2018) on the theme of “Little Development Devices and Humanitarian Goods.” He has held fellowships at the School for Advanced Research in Santa Fe and the Institute for Advanced Study at Princeton, in addition to serving as President of the Society for Cultural Anthropology.
- Ph.D. Anthropology, U.C. Berkeley, 5/1995
- M.A. Anthropology, U.C. Berkeley, 5/1989
- A.B. Anthropology, Harvard University, 6/1987
Tenure Track Appointments
- Professor of Anthropology (Secondary Appointment Social Medicine), University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2013 – 2020
- Associate Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 2004 – 2013
- Assistant Professor of Anthropology, University of North Carolina at Chapel Hill, 1999 – 2004
Visiting and Temporary Appointments
- Postdoctoral Fellow, History of Science, Medicine and Technology, Johns Hopkins University , 1998-1999
- Visiting Scholar, Anthropology, University of Texas at Austin, 1997-1999
- Visiting Assistant Professor, Cultural Studies of Science, Technology and Medicine Department of History, UCLA, 1995-1996
- Visiting Assistant Professor, Social Science, Deep Springs College, 1993-1995
Medical anthropology, Science, Technology and Society, Humanitarianism and Human Rights, Colonial History, Ethics, Nongovernmental Organizations and Transnational Experts, Europe, French Guiana, Uganda, South Africa
Detailed Statement of Research Interests
My first research project focused on the European space program in French Guiana, comparing it to earlier French efforts to develop the region, especially the notorious penal colony known as Devil’s Island. Between 1990 and 1994 I worked in both French Guiana and France, combining ethnographic fieldwork with archival research; the results appeared as a book for the University of California Press in 2000. At its core the book addresses the greater ecology of modern technology, examining the reconfiguration of French Guiana’s social and natural landscape into a proper habitat for the assembly and launch of satellites into high orbit. My larger goal in writing it was to interrogate the success of a distinctly planetary system with a more local history, one rife with repeated colonial failure and unintended consequences.