Peter Redfield

Peter RedfieldNetwork Member

Peter’s research revolves around an examination of forms of transnational expertise and the practice of science, technology and medicine in global contexts.  In pursuing this area of interest, he has navigated along the frontier between anthropology and several related disciplines, including the history of science and technology, science studies, colonial history, postcolonial studies, development studies, and the study of international nongovernmental organizations, humanitarianism and human rights.  He is Professor of Anthropology at the University of Southern California, Dornsife and was President of the Society for Cultural Anthropology, 2017-19.

Current position
University affiliation
University of Southern California, Dornsife, Department of Anthropology


Beyond Reliable Infrastructure

Peter’s present project follows examples of science, technology and medicine beyond reliable infrastructure.  He is particularly interested in emerging forms of humanitarian design, and a varied array of efforts to produce innovative fixes and solutions in a box (examples range from nonprofit pharmaceutical production to minimalist life technologies related to food, shelter, water and sanitation).  The goal is to consider the complicated ethics and politics of interventions that seek to do good by saving lives, particularly as they relate to past utopian projects of social welfare and justice.  In addition to publishing a series of shorter pieces, he spent 2016-17 at the Institute for Advanced Study in Princeton, New Jersey, working on the conceptual frame.  He is also pursuing an overlapping research on the material politics of sanitation and water in South Africa with Steven Robins at Stellenbosch University.


  • Redfield, Peter (2020) "The Danger of a Single Threat." in Covid-19, Fieldsights.
  • Redfield, Peter (2018) "On Band-Aids and Magic Bullets." in Limn 9, Little Development Devices/Humanitarian Goods , edited by Stephen J. Collier, Jamie Cross, Peter Redfield and Alice Street. →
  • Redfield, Peter (2016) "Ebola and the Vulnerable Volunteer." in Volunteer Economies: The Politics and Ethics of Voluntary Labor in Africa , edited by R. Prince and H. Brown, 222-233. Woodbridge: James Currey.
  • Redfield, Peter and Steven Robins (2016) "An Index of Waste: Humanitarian Design, ‘Dignified Living’ and the Politics of Infrastructure in Cape Town." in Anthropology of Southern Africa 39 (2): 145-162.
  • Redfield, Peter (2015) "A Measured Good." in Medical Humanitarianism: Ethnographies of Practice , edited by S. Abramowitz and C. Panter-Brick, 242-251. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press.
  • Redfield, Peter (2015) "Fluid Technologies: The Bush Pump, the LifeStraw® and Microworlds of Humanitarian Design." in Social Studies of Science 46 (2): 159–183.
  • Redfield, Peter (2014) "Medical Vulnerability, or Where There Is No Kit." in Limn, Issue 5 (Ebola’s Ecologies).
  • Redfield, Peter (2013) "Life in Crisis: The Ethical Journey of Doctors Without Borders." Berkeley: University of California Press.
  • Redfield, Peter (2013) "Triage sans frontières." in La médecine du tri: Histoire, éthique, anthropologie , edited by G. Lachenal , C. Lefèvre, and V.K. Nguyen, 81-102. Paris: Presses Universitaires de France.
  • Redfield, Peter (2012) "Bioexpectations: Life Technologies as Humanitarian Goods." in Public Culture 24 (1): 157-184.
  • Redfield, Peter (2012) "The Unbearable Lightness of Expats: Double Binds of Humanitarian Mobility." in Cultural Anthropology 27 (2): 358-382.
  • Redfield, Peter (2012) "Humanitarianism." in A Companion to Moral Anthropology , edited by D. Fassin, 451-467. Malden: Blackwell.
  • Redfield, Peter (2012) "Sleeping Sickness and the Limits of Biological Citizenship." in Rethinking Biomedicine and Governance in Africa , edited by W. Geissler, R. Rothenburg and J. Zenker, 229-249. Bielefeld: transcript.
  • Bornstein, Erica and Peter Redfield (2011) "Forces of Compassion: Humanitarianism Between Ethics and Politics." Santa Fe: SAR Press.
  • Redfield, Peter (2010) "The Verge of Crisis: Doctors Without Borders in Uganda." in Contemporary States of Emergency: The Politics of Military and Humanitarian Interventions , edited by D. Fassin and M. Pandolfi, 173-195. New York: Zone Books.
  • Redfield, Peter (2008) "Vital Mobility and the Humanitarian Kit." in Biosecurity Interventions: Global Health and Security in Question , edited by A. Lakoff and S. Collier, 147-171. New York: Columbia University Press.
  • Redfield, Peter (2006) "A Less Modest Witness: Collective Advocacy and Motivated Truth in a Medical Humanitarian Movement." in American Ethnologist 33 (1): 3-26.
  • Redfield, Peter (2005) "Foucault in the Tropics: Displacing the Panopticon." in Anthropologies of modernity: Foucault, governmentality and life politics , edited by Jonathan Xavier Inda, 50-79. Malden: Blackwell Books.
  • Redfield, Peter (2005) "Doctors, Borders and Life in Crisis." in Cultural Anthropology 20 (3): 328-361.
  • Redfield, Peter (2002) "The Half-Life of Empire in Outer Space." in Social Studies of Science 32 (6): 791-825.
  • Redfield, Peter (2000) "Space in the Tropics: From Convicts to Rockets in French Guiana." Berkeley: University of California Press.