Steven Epstein (1985)

Professor of Sociology and John C. Shaffer Professor in the Humanities, Northwestern University

Graduate studies at Berkeley shaped my fundamental interest in understanding the relation between knowledge and power in modern societies. My faculty mentors and fellow students provided me with intellectual tools to bring social theory to bear on social issues that mattered, and they encouraged me to develop an 'engaged' sociology. The faculty members with whom I worked also had no hesitations about providing me the space to explore areas and empirical topics that sometimes were unfamiliar to them.

After leaving Berkeley, I accepted a postdoc and then a faculty position at UCSD, where I am presently an associate professor. Although my appointment is in Sociology and I feel strong allegiances to that field, my interests have become increasingly interdisciplinary. I am active in UCSD's interdisciplinary graduate program in Science Studies, as well as in our undergraduate Critical Gender Studies Program, and I am an affiliated faculty member in the Ethnic Studies Department. I teach a range of courses on topics that include biomedicine, science studies, social theory, social movements, and sexuality.

My dissertation, advised by Jerry Karabel, was awarded the ASA's dissertation prize, and the book that developed from it, Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge, received three prizes, including the C. Wright Mills award. I am pleased about the book's influence in helping people think through the complexities of relations between experts and laypeople. I am currently writing a second book which examines the 'politics of inclusion' and the 'management of difference' in U.S. biomedical research.

I am also active in professional circles outside the walls of UCSD. In recent years, I have served as a contributing editor of AJS, as a member of the governing council of the Society for Social Studies of Science, and on the National Research Advisory Board of the Gay and Lesbian Alliance Against Defamation.

Dissertation Title: 
Impure Science: AIDS, Activism, and the Politics of Knowledge
Dissertation Book Title: 
Impure science : AIDS, activism, and the politics of knowledge