Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University
Ruha Benjamin

Ruha Benjamin

ruha (at)

Ruha Benjamin is a Visiting Fellow with the Program on Science, Technology & Society (STS) at the Harvard Kennedy School for academic year 2013-2014. She is also an American Council of Learned Societies fellow on leave from Boston University, where she serves as assistant professor of Sociology and African American studies. While at Harvard, Ruha is completing a book People’s Science: Bodies & Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press 2013), which examines struggles over public participation in the implementation of California’s stem cell initiative. She is also continuing work on a second project entitled Provincializing Science, which investigates the interplay between folk ethnoracial taxonomies, government classifications, and population genomics in South Africa, India, and Mexico.

Ruha’s book, People’s Science: Bodies & Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier, examines the tension between scientific expedience and socio-political equity. It expands the meaning of ‘participatory science’ beyond the default public of patient advocates to include subordinated social groups who are likewise impacted by and implicated in the life sciences. Based upon two years of multi-sited fieldwork in the California stem cell initiative, People’s Science builds upon the framework of bioconstitutionalism in which advances in the life sciences lead to new claims about ‘who we are, what we are owed, and what we are responsible for’ as objects and subjects of science.

Her second project, Provincializing Science, examines the use of genomics in pharmaceutical development—who does it, who owns it, and who consumes it—as a primary locus of struggle in emerging economies. It draws on a combination of in-depth interviews, participant observation, and a mixed archive of documents and media to understand the relationship between biological knowledge and sociopolitical demands.

Ruha received a BA (2001) in Sociology and Anthropology from Spelman College, an MA (2004) and PhD (2008) in Sociology from UC Berkeley (2008), and completed a postdoctoral fellowship (2010) at UCLA’s Institute for Society & Genetics. She has received grants and fellowships from the American Council of Learned Societies, National Science Foundation, Ford Foundation, California Institute for Regenerative Medicine, and UC Berkeley Townsend Center for the Humanities, among others.


2013. Benjamin, R. People’s Science: Reconstituting Bodies & Rights on the Stem Cell Frontier (Stanford University Press).

2012. Benjamin, R. Genetics and Global Public Health: Sickle Cell and Thalassaemia, Simon Dyson and Karl Atkin (eds), Ch11, Organized Ambivalence: When Stem Cell Research & Sickle Cell Disease Converge. New York: Routledge.

2011. Benjamin, R. Organized Ambivalence: When Stem Cell Research & Sickle Cell Disease Converge. Ethnicity & Health, Vol. 16, Issue 4-5: 447-463.

2009. Benjamin, R. A Lab of Their Own: Genomic Sovereignty as Postcolonial Science Policy. Policy & Society Vol. 28, Issue 4: 3

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