Program on Science, Technology and Society at Harvard

Harvard Kennedy School of Government | Harvard University
Stefan Sperling

Stefan Sperling

Stefan Sperling died on August 10, 2016. At the time of his death, he was an attorney with the San Francisco office of Baker & McKenzie, specializing in issues of data protection and security compliance. He received his JD from Stanford University in 2013 and had recently published a book, Reasons of Conscience: The Bioethics Debate in Germany (University of Chicago Press, 2013).

Stefan was previously a postdoctoral fellow in the Harvard STS Program. He completed his PhD in Princeton’s Department of Anthropology. His dissertation, entitled Science and Conscience: Stem Cells, Bioethics, and German Citizenship, looked at bioethics as an ethnographic object. Through fieldwork with a bioethics commission advising the German parliament, and an anthropological re-reading of German history through the analytical lenses of transparency and conscience, the dissertation demonstrates that bioethics in present-day Germany is in part the result of culturally specific relations between the state and its citizens. The state is engaged in the project of shaping itself as morally legitimate, and it remakes its citizenry, as well as its scientists, to conform to collectively recognized standards of virtue. The dissertation further shows how this state-making project is deeply entangled with debates over the ethics of stem cell research and regulation. While at Harvard, he taught a Freshman Seminar on “Medicine, Ethics, and Culture.” After Harvard, he went on to teach at the University at Humboldt in Berlin and at Deep Springs College. More information about Stefan’s life can be found here

In addition to his JD and PhD, Sperling held an A.A. from Deep Springs College, a B.A. with honors from the University of Chicago, and an M.A. from Stanford University. 


Reasons of Conscience: The Bioethics Debate in Germany (University of Chicago, 2013).

Science and Conscience: An Ethnography of Stem Cells, Bioethics, and German Citizenship. (Ph.D. Dissertation, Department of Anthropology, Princeton University, 2006; in preparation for submission)

Re-Framing Rights: Constitutional Implications of Technological Change (co-edited with Sheila Jasanoff; in preparation)

Articles and Chapters

“Biomedizin aus Sicht der Medizin- und Kulturanthropologie” In S Schicktanz et al. eds., Kulturelle Aspekte der Biomedizin: Bioethik, Religionen und Alltagsperspektiven. (Frankfurt/M: Campus, 2003), pp. 187-211.

“Managing Potential Selves: Stem Cells, Immigrants, and German Identity” in Science and Public Policy, Vol. 31, No. 2 (2004), pp. 139-149.

“Embryonic Conflicts: The Cultural Logics of Stem Cell Research in Germany and the United States.” (In preparation for Reframing Rights: Constitutional Implications of Technological Change.)

“Knowledge Rites and the Right Not to Know.” (In preparation for special issue of PoLAR.)

Note: The above information concerns a past fellow at the Program on Science, Technology, and Society at the Harvard Kennedy School. It does not constituent evidence of current enrollment. The information may be out of date. To update their information, past fellows should e-mail the site administrator.