Amber Benezra (abenezra)

Amber Benezra

Assistant Professor

School of Humanities, Arts and Social Sciences


  • PhD (2014) New School for Social Research (Sociocultural Anthropology)
  • MA (2007) New School for Social Research (Sociocultural Anthropology)
  • MA (2000) New School for Social Research (Media Studies and Film)
  • BA (1996) Carnegie Mellon University (Literary & Cultural Studies/Creative Writing)


Amber Benezra is a sociocultural anthropologist researching how studies of the human microbiome intersect with biomedical ethics, public health/technological infrastructures, and care. In partnership with human microbial ecologists, she is developing an "anthropology of microbes" to address global health problems across disciplines.

Her book, published by University of Minnesota Press in 2023, Gut Anthro: An Experiment in Thinking with Microbes, is the first ethnography of the microbiome. Based on fieldwork at a preeminent U.S. lab studying the human microbiome and at a scientific field site in Bangladesh studying infant malnutrition, the book examines how microbes travel between human guts in the “field” and in microbiome laboratories.

As lab scientists studied the interrelationships between gut microbes and malnutrition in resource-poor countries, Amber Benezra explored ways to reconcile the scale and speed differences between the lab, the intimate biosocial practices of Bangladeshi mothers and their children, and the looming structural violence of poverty. In vital ways, Gut Anthro is about what it means to collaborate—with mothers, local field researchers in Bangladesh, massive philanthropic global health organizations, the microbiome scientists, and, of course, with microbes. It follows microbes through various enactments in scientific research—microbes as kin, as data, and as race. Revealing how racial categories are used in microbiome research, Benezra argues that microbial differences need transdisciplinary collaboration to address racial health disparities without reifying race as a straightforward biological or social designation.Gut Anthro is a tour de force of science studies and medical anthropology as well as an intensely personal and deeply theoretical account of what it means to do anthropology today.

Institutional Service

  • Committee on Committees Chair
  • Junior Faculty Board of Representatives Member
  • LeadHership Conference Planning Committee Member
  • Pinnacle and Clark Scholars Summer Research Program Member
  • Stevens Faculty for Gender Diversity Member
  • Graduate Curriculum Committee Member

Professional Service

  • Society for Medical Anthropology/American Anthropological Association Editorial Board
  • Medical Anthropology Quarterly Digital Editor
  • National Science Foundation NSF Engineering Research Center Site Visit Team

Professional Societies

  • AGA – American Geographers Association Member
  • NYAS – New York Academy of Sciences Member
  • 4S – Society for the Social Studies of Science Member
  • AAA – American Anthropological Association Member
  • AFA – Association for Feminist Anthropology Member
  • SCA – Society for Cultural Anthropology Member
  • SMA – Society for Medical Anthropology Member

Selected Publications


  1. Benezra, A. (2023). Gut Anthro: An Experiment in Thinking with Microbes. Minneapolis, Minnesota: University of Minnesota Press.

Book Chapter

  1. Benezra, A. (2018). Making Microbiomes. Handbook of Genomics, Health and Society (pp. 283-290). Routledge.
  2. Benezra, A. (2016). Feminist Anthropology. Macmillan Interdisciplinary Handbook: Gender/Nature (pp. 17-28). Macmillan.

Journal Article

  1. Benezra, A. (2022). Microbial Kin: Relations of Environment and Time. Medical Anthropology Quarterly (4 ed., vol. 35 , pp. 511-528).
  2. Benezra, A. (2021). Chasing Ghosts: Race, Racism, and the Future of Microbiome Research. Deciphering the Microbiome. mSystems (5 ed., vol. 6). American Society for Microbiology.
  3. Benezra, A. (2021). Introducing the Microbes and Social Equity Working Group: Considering the Microbial Components of Social, Environmental, and Health Justice. mSystems (4 ed., vol. 6). American Society for Microbiology.
  4. Benezra, A. (2020). Race in the Microbiome. Special Issue: Sensing Race as a Ghost Variable in Science, Technology, and Medicine. Science, Technology, and Human Values (5 ed., vol. 45, pp. 877-902). Thousand Oaks, CA: SAGE Publishing.
  5. Benezra, A. (2020). Setting the agenda for social science research on the human microbiome. Palgrave Communications (18 ed., vol. 6, pp. New York, NY: Nature.
  6. Benezra, A. (2016). Datafying Microbes: Malnutrition At the Intersection of Metagenomics and Global Health. BioSocieties (3 ed., vol. 11, pp. 334–351).
  7. Subramanian et al.; Benezra, A. (2014). Persistent Gut Microbiota Immaturity in Malnourished Bangladeshi Children. Nature (vol. 510, pp. 417-421).
  8. Benezra, A.; Gordon, J.; DeStefano, J. (2012). An Anthropology of Microbes. Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences (vol. 109, pp. 6378-6382).