On May 28, 2021, Lesley A. Sharp, Barnard College’s Barbara Chamberlain & Helen Chamberlain Josefsberg ’30 Professor of Anthropology, published new research in History and Philosophy of the Life Sciences, an interdisciplinary journal committed to providing an integrative approach to understanding the life sciences. Her article, titled “Animal research unbound: The messiness of the moral and the ethnographer’s dilemma,” examines the complexities of interspecies responsibility within labs that employ research animals and, in turn, the challenges of representing her ethnographic research to audiences on the “outside.” Sharp maintains that an ethnographer’s ability to witness, record, and write about these actions within labs relies on the relativist principle of suspended judgment as espoused within anthropology. In turn, she flags what she refers to as the “moral messiness" of quotidian lab practices, alongside those associated with ethnographic responsibility. Sharp argues that a dialectical inter- and intraspecies framework—inspired by the existential anthropologist Michael Jackson—offers the ethnographer (and other scholars) a productively “unbounded” methodological analytic in and beyond the domains of animal science. She also highlights how Jackson’s work speaks to the importance of interspecies as well as intersubjective empathy and asserts that empathy is the bedrock of “doing justice.”
Sharp is also the author of the book Animal Ethos: The Morality of Human-Animal Encounters in Experimental Lab Science (University of California Press, 2019), in which she examines the moral challenges that arise from encounters between species in laboratory science.