Associate Professor of Sociology


Ph.D., Sociology, University of California San Francisco, 2003

MPH, University of California Los Angeles, 1997

B.A., Sociology, Reed College, 1992

Focus of Research

Sociology of Health and Illness, Science and Technology Studies, Body and Society, Sociology and Bioethics, Environmental Health and Justice, Qualitative Research Methods.


Contact Information


Sara Shostak

Sara Shostak

Sara Shostak is Associate Professor of Sociology and Chair of the Health: Science, Society, and Policy Program. Her research and teaching interests include the sociology of health and illness, science and technology studies, and environmental sociology. Across these domains, she focuses on how to understand - and address - inequalities in health.

Shostak's first book - Exposed Science: Genes, the Environment, and the Politics of Population Health received the Robert K. Merton Book Award from the ASA's Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology and the Eliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award from the Medical Sociology Section. Drawing on in-depth interviews and ethnographic observation with nearly 100 environmental health scientists, policy makers, and environmental health and justice activists, Exposed Science analyzes the rise of the study of gene-environment interaction in the environmental health sciences and examines its consequences for how we understand – and seek to protect – population health.

Shostak has been at the forefront of efforts to understand the social, ethical, and political dimensions of genetics for myriad users of genetic information.  She served as an associate editor of a special issue of the American Journal of Sociology focused on how sociologists can use genetic information as a lever to illuminate dimensions of social organization and complex social processes, thereby advancing sociological theory and research methods. She leads the qualitative interview component of a NIH funded study of psychosocial dimensions of genetic information in the epilepsies.  She has an extensive record of publications on whether and how genetic information shapes people’s lives and life chances.

Shostak’s current project is a study of urban agriculture in New England cities.  Using ethnographic and community based participatory research (CBPR) methods, Shostak examines the emergence of agricultural initiatives in different urban contexts, the diverse hopes and aspirations that motivate this “movement,” the experiences of practitioners, and the implications for improving health in cities.

Her research and teaching have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the ASA Teaching Enhancement Fund, the Epilepsy Foundation, the University of California Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program, the UC Berkeley Program in Social Studies of Science and Technology, the Andrew Vincent White and Florence Wales White Fellowship in Medicine and the Humanities, the University of California Humanities Research Institute, the Agency for Health Care Research and Quality, and the American Cancer Society.

Recent Publications


2013. Exposed Science: Genes, the Environment, and the Politics of Population Health. University of California Press


2008. Genetics and Social Structure. Special issue of the American Journal of Sociology, Volume 114, Number S1. (with Peter Bearman and Molly Martin) 

Selected Articles (* peer reviewed)

*2015  “Making a Case for Genetics: Interdisciplinary Visions and Practices in the Contemporary Social Sciences.”  Advances in Medical Sociology: Genetics, Health, and Society. Edited by Brea Perry.  London: Emerald Press. (with Jason Beckfield)

2015   “Beyond Geneticization: Regimes of Perceptibility and the Social Determinants of Health.”  In Reimagining Biomedicalization, Pharmaceuticals, and Genetics: Old Critiques and New Engagements. Edited by Susan Bell and Anne Figert.  New York: Routledge. (with Margot Moinester, HSSP ’09)

2015  “The Missing Piece of the Puzzle?:  Measuring the Environment in the Postgenomic Moment.”  In Postgenomics: Perspectives on Biology After the Genome.  Edited by Sarah Richardson and Hallam Stevens.  Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.  (with Margot Moinester, HSSP ’09)

*2015   “Assessing Learning in a Sociology Department: What Do Students Say That They Learn?”  Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education.  Available online, in advance of publication, at URL: http://dx.doi.org/10.1080/02602938.2015.1018132 (with Julia Bandini, Wendy Cadge, and David Cunningham)

*2014 “Genetic Testing Preferences in Families Containing Multiple Individuals with Epilepsy.”  Epilepsia 55(11): 1705-13. [Lead Article] (with Janet O. Okeke, Virginia. E. Tangel, Shawn T. Sorge, Dale C. Hesdorffe, Melodie R. Winawer, Jeff Goldsmith, Jo C. Phelan, Wendy K. Chung, and Ruth Ottman)

*2014     “Genetic Testing in the Epilepsies: Developments and Dilemmas."  Nature Reviews Neurology 10(5): 293–299.  (with Annapurna Poduri,  Beth Rosen Sheidley, and Ruth Ottman).

*2012.   "Forgetting and Remembering Epilepsy: Collective Memory and the Experience of Illness.”  Sociology of Health and Illness 34(3): 362-378. (with Nicole Fox)

*2011.      “What's at Stake? Genetic Information from the Perspective of People with Epilepsy and their Family Members.”  Social Science and Medicine 73(5): 645-654. (with Dana Zarhin & Ruth Ottman)

2011.    “Narration and Neuroscience:  Encountering the Social on the ‘Last Frontier of Medicine.’”  Advances in Medical Sociology:  Sociological Reflections on Neuroscience.  Edited by Ira van Keulen and Martyn Pickersgill.  Emerald Press. (with Miranda Waggoner)

*2010.  “Teaching Graduate and Undergraduate Research Methods: A Multi-Pronged Departmental Initiative.” Teaching Sociology 38(2): 93-105. (with Jenn Girouard, David Cunningham, and Wendy Cadge).

2010.  “Gene Environment Interaction and Medical Sociology.”  In Handbook of Medical Sociology.  Edited by Chloe E. Bird, Peter Conrad, Allen M. Fremont, and Stefan Timmermans.  Vanderbilt University Press. (with Jeremy Freese).

2010.  “Marking Populations and Persons At Risk.”  In Biomedicalization: Technoscience, Health, and Medicine in the U.S.  Edited by Adele E. Clarke, Laura Mamo, Jennifer Fosket, Jennifer Fishman and Janet Shim.  Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press.

2009. "Biomedicalising Health, Diseases and Identities." Handbook of Genetics and Society: Mapping the New Genomic Era. Edited by Paul Atkinson, Peter Glasner, and Margaret Lock. London: Routledge. (with Adele E. Clarke, Janet K. Shim, and Alondra Nelson)

*2009. "Genetics and Social Inquiry." Annual Review of Sociology 35: 107-28. (With Jeremy Freese)

*2009. "The Politics of the Gene: Social Status and Beliefs about Genetics for Individual Outcomes." Social Psychology Quarterly 72(1): 77-93. (With Jeremy Freese, Bruce Link, and Jo Phelan)

Featured on the ASA website and in a 'SPQ Snap':

*2008. "Sequencing and Its Consequences: Path Dependence and the Relationships Between Genetics and Medicalization." American Journal of Sociology 114 (S1): S287-S316. (With Peter Conrad and Allan V. Horwitz)

2007. "Changing the Subject: Science, Subjectivity, and the Structure of 'Ethical Problems." Pp. 323-346 in Advances in Medical Sociology: Sociological Perspectives on Bioethical Issues. Edited by Barbara Katz Rothman, Elizabeth Armstrong, Rebecca Tiger. Oxford: Elsevier/JAI Press. (With Erin Rehel).

*2007. "Translation At Work: Genetically Modified Mouse Models and Molecularization in the Environmental Health Sciences." Science, Technology, and Human Values 32(3): 315-338

*2006. "Ethical, Social, and Policy Dimensions of Epilepsy Genetics." Epilepsia 47(10): 1595-1602. (With Ruth Ottman)

*2006. "Implications of Welfare Reform for the Elderly: A Case Study of Provider, Advocate, and Consumer Perspectives." Journal of Aging and Social Policy 18(1): 41-63. (With Carroll Estes, Sheryl Goldberg, Chris Wellin, Karen Linkins, and Renee Beard)

*2005. "The Emergence of Toxicogenomics: A Case Study of Molecularization." Social Studies of Science 35(3): 367-403.

2005. "Of Mice and Molecules: Research with Genetically Modified Mouse Models at the National Institute of Environmental Health Sciences." Environmental Health Perspectives, Special Issue on The Future of Environmental Health: 90-99.

*2005. "Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Practices for Low-Income Asian American Women in Ethnic-Specific Clinics." California Journal of Health Promotion 3(3): 180-192. (With Marjorie Kagawa-Singer, Liane Dong, Chantal Rayner, and Rod Lew).

*2004. "Environmental Justice and Genomics: Acting on the Futures of Environmental Health." Science as Culture 13(4): 539-562.

*2003. "Locating Gene-Environment Interaction: At the Intersections of Genetics and Public Health." Social Science and Medicine 56:2327-2342.