The Department of Anthropology


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Lessinger, Johanna

Associate Professor


9.63.31 NB

Ph.D Anthropology, Brandeis University, 1977 

BA Anthropology, Radcliffe College,1965

Research interests: gender; work; immigration; urban areas; immigration; urban areas; South Asia


Johanna Lessinger started her intellectual career among the North American and British Marxist feminists of the 1960s and 1970s, while participating in the civil rights and anti-war movements of the period and getting a Ph.D. in social anthropology from Brandeis University. Today she specializes in the study of gender, work, immigration and South Asia.

Brief experiences of student summer fieldwork in Ecuador and Trinidad confirmed her in a love of anthropology, particularly the thrill of field research. As a Ph.D. student she went on to study the large South Indian city of Madras (now called Chennai), focusing first on the structure and workforce of the city’s produce markets and later on the female workers in the city’s growing export garment industry. She retains a lifelong interest in the intersection between women’s lives and women’s labor and, more recently, in the impacts of globalization on India—impacts which fall particularly heavily on women and the urban working class. A recent conference paper highlighted the link between gender violence in India and the economic frustration of working-class men.

An early manifestation of that globalization was the mid-20th century outmigration of Indians to, among other places, the United States. She has subsequently studied the Indian immigrant community in New York City.  In addition she has worked as part of research teams studying mental health programs for Hispanics in New York City public hospitals and studying mental health/social intervention program outcomes among female former prisoners and AIDs patients.

Johanna is an advisory board member and former chair of the New York Academy of Science’s Anthropology Section.  She is also a board member of the Kathak Ensemble, dedicated to preserving and popularizing classical Indian dance in New York.

Johanna worked as an adjunct at John Jay from 2004 to 2014 and served as a member of the college’s Committee on the Status of Adjuncts. Presently she is the coordinator for the new Anthropology major.