Sherry Beth Ortner (born September 19, 1941) is an American cultural anthropologist and has been a Distinguished Professor of Anthropology at UCLA since 2004.
Ortner grew up in a Jewish family in Newark, New Jersey, and attended Weequahic High School, as did Philip Roth and Richie Roberts. She received her B.A. from Bryn Mawr College in 1962. She then studied anthropology at the University of Chicago with Clifford Geertz and obtained her Ph.D. in anthropology in 1970 for her fieldwork among the Sherpas in Nepal. She has taught at Sarah Lawrence College, the University of Michigan, the University of California, Berkeley, Columbia University, and the University of California, Los Angeles. She has done extensive fieldwork with the Sherpas of Nepal, on religion, politics, and the Sherpas’ involvement in Himalayan mountaineering. Her final book on the Sherpas, Life and Death on Mt. Everest, was awarded the J.I. Staley prize for the best anthropology book of 2004.
In the early 1990s, Ortner changed the focus of her research to the United States. Her first project was on the meanings and working of “class” in the United States, using her own high school graduating class as her ethnographic subjects. Her most recent book concerns the relationship between Hollywood films and American culture. She also publishes regularly in the areas of cultural theory and feminist theory.
Sherry Ortner was awarded a MacArthur "Genius" grant in 1990. In 1992, she was elected a Fellow of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences. She has been awarded the Retzius Medal of the Swedish Society for Anthropology and Geography.
Ortner was previously married to Robert Paul, a cultural anthropologist now at Emory University; and to Raymond C. Kelly, Emeritus Professor of Anthropology at The University of Michigan. She is currently married to Timothy D. Taylor, a Professor of Ethnomusicology and Musicology at UCLA.