Paul Wenzel Geissler

Paul Wenzel Geissler

Paul Wenzel Geissler teaches social anthropology at the University of Oslo. He studied history and zoology in Hamburg, before converting to social anthropology in Copenhagen and Cambridge, and has worked in East Africa for 25 years. His current research concerns the ethnography of science, initially focusing on questions of transnational scientific cooperation in medical research, and its political economy and ethics, and more recently history and legacy, memory and remains, and more generally the relations between temporality and the material. He studied the latter in particular around scientific field stations and biological field research working across the boundary of anthropology and history, seeking collaboration across disciplines, and including the arts, and employing experimental ethnographic methods. Among his books are ‘The Land is Dying’ (Berghahn, 2011) with Ruth Prince, and ‘Para-states and Medical Science: Making African Global Health’ (Duke, 2015). Together with Guillaume Lachenal, John Manton and Noémi Tousignant, he edited ‘Traces of the Future. An archaeology of medical science in Africa’ (Intellect, 2016).

Current position
Professor of social anthropology
University affiliation
University of Oslo, Department of Social Anthropology


Geissler’s current research remains focused on the practice of natural sciences, mainly in Eastern Africa. Apart from the question of relations through time, and the ethnography of remains and traces, he is interested in relations between fieldworkers and field in different settings, including issues of landscape and movement, observation, collaboration and collection, as well as in natural history, both as a subject of ethnographic enquiry, and a mode of ethnographic thinking and presentation.

At the same time, Geissler is leading the AnthroTox group, consisting of social anthropologists, biologists and chemists in Norway and Tanzania, studying questions of toxicity and toxicology in Africa, with PhD students’ current projects on electronic waste in Tanzania, and pesticides and aflatoxin in Kenya.

Moreover, he heads the anthropological Oslo part of the EU Marie Curie Innovative Training Network ANTHUSIA, that brings together 16 anthropological PhD students in Arhus, Oslo, Leuwen and Edinburgh, studying a range of different topics concerning ‘human security’ in Africa, including a number involved in medical, scientific and technical issues.


  • Geissler, P. W. and N. Tousignant (2019) "Beyond realism: Africa‘s medical dreams. (introduction to special issue)." in Africa (in press).
  • Geissler PW and Kelly A (2016) "Field station as stage: Re-enacting scientific work and life in Amani, Tanzania." in Social Studies of Science 46 (6):912-937.
  • Geissler P W, Lachenal G, Manton J, Tousignant N (2016) "Traces of the Future: An Archaeology of Medical Science in Twenty First Century Africa." Bristol: Intellect.
  • Geissler PW (ed.) (2015) "Para-states and Medical Science: Making Global Health in Africa." Durham: Duke University Press.
  • Geissler PW (2013) "Public secrets in public health: knowing not to know while making scientific knowledge." in American Ethnologist 40 (1):13-34.
  • Geissler PW (2013) "Stuck in ruins, or up and coming? The shifting geography of urban health work in Kisumu, Kenya." in Africa 83 (4):539-560.
  • Geissler, Paul Wenzel, Richard Rottenburg, and Julia Zenker, eds. (2012) "Rethinking biomedicine and governance in Africa." Bielefeld: Transcript
  • Geissler, PW & C Molyneux (eds.) (2011) "Evidence, Ethos and Experiment: Anthropology and History of Medical Research in Africa." Oxford: Berghahn.
  • Geissler, PW & RJ Prince (2010) "The Land is Dying: Creativity, Contingency and Conflict in western Kenya." Oxford: Berghahn.