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Contested Illnesses Research Group
Brown University , Providence RI

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Ruth Simpson

Ruth Simpson teaches Sociology at Bryn Mawr College. Her research focuses on various intersections of medicine, the environment, science, culture, and the development of the concept of "modernity." Recently she has explored the parallels between late nineteenth-century social theory and the debate over the origins of epidemic disease during the same period, in which more communal understandings of epidemics as environmentally-caused gave way to the more individualistic explanation of germ theory. As a post-doctoral fellow at Brown University, she studied the processes through which communities discover and take action on toxic contamination and the methodological and ethical issues of using community-based participatory research to study local environmental action. Simpson has written on environmental justice, problems of risk perception, phobias, and historical narrative, and has published and contributed to articles in Sociological Forum, The Handbook of Medical Sociology and the forthcoming Contested Illnesses (Brown, Morello-Frosch, Zavestoski, eds.). She is beginning a project that explores resistance to the use of public transportation, as well as a separate project that explores the attribution, in popular science, of large consequences (i.e., epidemics, nuclear explosions) to tiny causes (i.e., germs, atoms).