Rena Lederman

Office Phone
127 Aaron Burr Hall
Office Hours
Thursday: 3:00 pm-4:00 pm

Also by appointment


Ph.D. Columbia University, 1982


Relationality, agency, expertise, and ethics; the politics of "method" in ethnography, disciplinary knowledges as moral orders (esp. historiography, sociology, psychology, anthropology); past and future of sciences/humanities tensions in popular and academic discourse; bureaucratic and regulatory policies and practices, administrative law and democracy; gendered/sexed experience, meanings, and ideologies; economic experience as culture: exchange, consumption, property, open access/digital commons. Oceania, US.

Short Bio
Professor Lederman’s recent interests have included relationality, expertise, and ethics; the politics of “method” in human sciences (particularly anthropology); disciplinary knowledges as “moral orders”; science/humanities tensions in popular and academic discourse; and bureaucratic and regulatory policies and practices. She has longstanding interests in gendered/sexed experiences and meanings and in economic experience as culture (in particular, tensions among market and non-market exchange, consumption, and property forms).   

Her first fieldwork in highland Papua New Guinea (PNG) concerned gift exchange relations, inequality and leadership, gender roles and ideologies, historical consciousness, and socioeconomic change. That research resulted in What Gifts Engender (Cambridge U Press, 1986) and several journal articles and book chapters, most recently “The Anthropology of the Big Man” (in The International Encyclopedia of the Social and Behavioral Sciences (2nd Edition), 2015).

Her recent US-based field, archival, and e-mediated research concerns the comparative anthropology of knowledge practices and research ethics across human science disciplines.  While she hadn’t planned it to have policy relevance, this work has implications for federal regulations concerning human research ethics. In controversies concerning ethics policy and practice, anthropology’s foundational means for understanding human lives – ethnographic fieldwork – needs informed advocacy.  Toward that end, she edited a 2006 American Ethnologist Forum on the politics of "human subjects" research oversight (e.g., IRBs), Anxious Borders between Work and Life in a Time of Bureaucratic Ethics Regulation;  coauthored the American Anthropological Association commentaries on the 2011 and 2015 proposed revisions to the Common Rule (US research ethics regulations); and was a member of the multidisciplinary panel responsible for the National Research Council 2014 consensus report evaluating those proposals.  She is completing books on ethnography and the moral ordering of disciplinary practices and on divergent ideas about research “sources”, “data”, “archives”, and their uses in anthropology, historiography, and the social and behavioral sciences.  

She teaches courses on gender, economic experience as culture, anthropology of ethics (which focuses on the uses and abuses of deception and disclosure in popular culture and the sciences), fieldwork methods, anthropology of science, and Pacific Island cultures.  Beginning in Fall 2017, she will also teach ANT 300 (“Experience, Evidence, and Ethnography”).

Image removed. Image removed. American Ethnologist: Anxious Borders Between Work and Life in a Time of Bureaucratic Ethics Regulation Image removed.

Selected Publications


Course Syllabi
» ANT 203: Economic Life in Cultural Context