Lesley Sharp is also a Senior Research Scientist in Sociomedical Sciences in the Mailman School of Public Health, Columbia University, and a Fellow of the Center for Animals and Public Policy of the Cummings School of Veterinary Medicine of Tufts University.
A medical anthropologist by training, Sharp is most concerned with critical analyses of the symbolics of the human body, where her research sites range from cosmopolitan medical centers and research laboratories within the United States and other Anglophone countries to urban centers in sub-Saharan Africa.
Sharp’s early research (1986-1995) addressed the power of spirit mediumship to mediate the suffering, displacement, and economic struggles of migrants and locals within a booming plantation economy in northwest Madagascar. She returned to this community in the mid-1990s to examine still other afflictions that erupted during a tumultuous transition from isolationist socialism to a capitalist model of governance, where the historical and political consciousness of Malagasy school youth defined a provocative framework of analysis.
Since the early 1990s, her research has addressed the ethical and moral consequences of innovative medicine and science, where investigative domains include the ideological and embodied consequences of organ transplantation, procurement, and donation as transformative experiences among involved parties in the United States; the imaginative and temporal dimensions of innovative and highly experimental transplant technologies, with specific reference to xenotransplantation and mechanical heart design in various Anglophone countries; and, most recently, the ethical, alongside everyday moral, consequences of human-animal encounters in experimental laboratory research.
Sharp is the recipient of numerous external grants and four teaching awards. Her book Strange Harvest won the 2008 New Millennium Book Award of the Society for Medical Anthropology; at Barnard she is the recipient of the Tow Family Award for Innovative and Outstanding Pedagogy, a Presidential Research Award, and previously she held the Ann Whitney Olin endowed chair in Anthropology.
BioInsecurity and Vulnerability, edited with Nancy N. Chen (SAR Press, Santa Fe, 2014)
The Transplant Imaginary: Mechanical Parts, Animal Hearts, and Moral Thinking in Highly Experimental Science (University of California Press, 2013)
Bodies, Commodities, and Biotechnologies: Death, Mourning, and Scientific Desire in the Real of Human Organ Transfer (Columbia University Press 2007, based on the 2004 Leonard Hastings Schoff Memorial Lectures)
Strange Harvest: Organ Transplants, Denatured Bodies, and the Transformed Self (University of California Press, 2006); awarded the 2008 New Millennium Book Award by the Society for Medical Anthropology.
The Sacrificed Generation: Youth, History, and the Colonized Mind in Madagascar (University of California Press, 2002)
The Possessed and the Dispossessed: Spirits, Identity, and Power in a Madagascar Migrant Town (University of California Press, 1993)
2017 “The Moral Lives of Laboratory Monkeys: Television and the Ethics of Care,” Culture, Medicine and Psychiatry, special volume on “Moral and Other Laboratories,” T Kuan and L. Grøn, eds.
2016 “Sharing Amidst Scarcity: The Commons as Innovative Transgression in Xeno- and Allotransplant Science,” IN Bodily Exchanges, Bioethics and Border Crossing: Perspectives on Giving, Selling and Sharing Bodies, Erik Mamqvist and Kristin Zeiler, eds. London and New York: Routledge, series in Studies in the Sociology of Health and Illness, pp. 87-101
2015 “Ethnographic Burnout, Spirited Curiosity, and the Search for the Uncanny in Realms of Human Organ Transfer,” Biosocieties 10:264-7.
2011 "Hybrid Bodies of the Scientific Imaginary,” for entry on "Hybridity," Companion to the Anthropology of the Body and Embodiment, Frances Mascia-Lees, ed., Companion to Anthropology Series, pp. 262-275, Wiley-Blackwell.
2011 “Monkey Business,” for special collection on "Interspecies," Social Text, April, 106:43-69.
2011 “The Invisible Woman: The Bioaesthetics of Engineered Bodies,” Body & Society 17:1:1-30.
2009 "Bioengineered Bodies and the Moral Imagination," The Lancet (Art of Medicine column), September 19, 374:970-1.
2001 "Commodified Kin: Death, Mourning, and Competing Claims on the Bodies of Organ Donors in the United States,” American Anthropologist 103:112-133.
2000 "The Commodification of the Body and its Parts". Annual Review of Anthropology 29:287-328.
1999 "A Medical Anthropologist's View on Posttransplant Compliance and the Underground Economy of Medical Survival" Transplantation Proceedings 31 Suppl. 4A:31S-33S.
1995 "Organ Transplantation as Transformative Experience: Anthropological Insights into the Restructuring of the Self" Medical Anthropology Quarterly 9:3:357-389.
Anthropology and bioethics
Human-animal relations in science
Symbolics of the human body
Youth and identity politics
Africa, including Madagascar
Human organ transfer