Elizabeth Bernstein

Professor of Women's Studies and Sociology


Sociology, Women's, Gender and Sexuality Studies


208 Barnard Hall - On Sabbatical Spring 2022
By appointment



Elizabeth Bernstein, Professor of Women's Studies and Sociology, joined the faculty of Barnard in September, 2002. Her research and teaching focus on the political economy of the body, gender, and sexuality. She is the author of the award-winning books Brokered Subjects: Sex, Trafficking, and the Politics of Freedom (University of Chicago Press 2018) and Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity, and the Commerce of Sex (University of Chicago Press 2007), and co-editor of the volume Regulating Sex: The Politics of Intimacy and Identity (Routledge 2004). She is also a Principal Investigator along with Janet Jakobsen for the Gender Justice and Neoliberal Transformations Working Group, a collaboration among thirteen scholars working transnationally on questions of gender justice in the contemporary world, which is sponsored by the Barnard Center for Research on Women (https://bcrw.barnard.edu/projects/transnationalfeminisms/gender-justice-neoliberal-transformations/). She is currently beginning research for a new book project entitled Imagining Immunity: Precarious Bodies and the Governance of Gendered Dis-ease, a feminist analysis of the immunological metaphors that guide common conceptions of bodily risk and suffering, as well as biopolitical interventions designed to address conditions ranging from allergies to autoimmune disorders to infectious disease.

Her research and scholarship have been recognized by awards from the Institute for Advanced Study, the National Science Foundation, the Social Science Research Council, AAUW, the Mellon Foundation, and the American Sociological Association.

B.A., M.A., Ph.D., University of California, Berkeley

  • Sexuality and the state
  • Sexual commerce
  • Sociology of the body, sex, and gender
  • Ethnographic Methods

Gender, Justice, and Neoliberal Transformations.  Guest editor of special issue of The Scholar and the Feminist Online, with Janet Jakobsen, Issue 11.1-11.2, Fall 2012/Spring 2013 http://sfonline.barnard.edu/gender-justice-and-neoliberal-transformations/).

“Carceral Politics as Gender Justice? The ‘Traffic in Women’ and Neoliberal Circuits of Crime, Sex, and Rights.” Theory and Society (2012): 41:3, 33-259.

"Militarized Humanitarianism Meets Carceral Feminism: The Politics of Sex, Rights, and Freedom in Contemporary Anti-Trafficking Campaigns," Signs: Journal of Women in Culture and Society, special issue on Feminists Theorize International Political Economy, guest edited by Kate Bedford and Shirin Rai (2010): 36:1, 45-71.

"Sex, Secularism, and Religion in U.S. Politics," with Janet Jakobsen. Third World Quarterly (2010): 31:6, 1023-1039.

Sexual Commerce and the Global Flow of Bodies, Desires, and Social Policies. Guest editor of special issue of Sexuality Research and Social Policy (2008): 5:4.

Temporarily Yours: Intimacy, Authenticity, and the Commerce of Sex (University of Chicago Press, 2007). 

  • Italian Translation, Temporaneamente Tua: intimità, autentitcità e commercio del sesso. (Odoya, 2009).
  • Nobert Elias Prize, Norbert Elias Foundation, Amsterdam, The Netherlands, 2009.
  • Distinguished Book Award, American Sociological Association, Sex and Gender section, 2009.
  • Distinguished Book Award, American Sociological Association, Sociology of Sexualities Section, 2008.

"Buying and Selling the 'Girlfriend Experience': The Social and Subjective Contours of Market Intimacy," in Mark Padilla and Richard Parker et. al., eds., Love and Globalization: Transformations of Intimacy in the Contemporary World. (Vanderbilt University Press, 2007): pp. 186-203.  

"Sex Work for the Middle Classes." Sexualities, special issue on Cultural Studies of Commercial Sex, guest edited by Laura Agustin (2007): 10:4, 473-488.

  • Translated into French for Genresexualité & société, Fall 2009.

The Sexual Politics of the 'New Abolitionism.'” Differences: Journal of Feminist Cultural Studies, special issue on God and Country, guest edited by Elizabeth Castelli (2007): 18:3, 128-151. 

Regulating Sex: The Politics of Intimacy and Identity, co-editor, with Laurie Schaffner (Routledge, 2005).

"The Meaning of the Purchase: Desire, Demand, and the Commerce of Sex." Ethnography Vol. 2, no. 3 (2001): 375-406.

  • Translated into French for Actes de la recherche en sciences sociales, numéro 194, 92-109, 2013. 
  • Translated into Portuguese for Cadernos Pago Vol. 32, Fall 2008.
  • Translated into Swedish for Fronesis, Special Issue on The Left and Feminism, Fall 2007.