medical sociology sociology of gender sociology of culture – sociology of the body


I’m Lindsay, a PhD candidate at UC Berkeley in Sociology. Broadly, my research program focuses on how healthcare institutions, knowledge about bodies, and experiences of suffering and illness change in relation to one another. My current research focuses on how uncertainty associated with many chronic illnesses (e.g. chronic fatigue, cluster headaches, post-traumatic stress disorder, fibromyalgia, polycystic ovarian syndrome) affects healthcare and social welfare institutions, as well as the lives of sufferers. This research takes an intersectional perspective, looking at how factors like gender, race, and class interact to affect how these chronic illnesses are understood, treated, and experienced. My work is aimed both at creating new knowledge about an often misunderstood topic and set of sufferers, as well as locating and targeting interventions to improve care and well-being.

My policy work for the Social Security Administration has transitioned into my dissertation research, which looks specifically at the case of chronic pain — a symptom that has uncertainty in measurement and proof of its validity — and how the disability determination process for US Social Security Disability Insurance (SSDI) unfolds for persons suffering from chronic pain. Through 65 interviews with decision-makers from each institution of the disability determination process (healthcare, welfare, and law) as well as disability claimants with pain, I show how uncertainty associated with measuring and categorizing chronic pain: 1) destabilizes the validity of evaluations of pain and disability across institutions; and 2) manifests in a “disabling process” for sufferers of chronic pain, whereby a person’s acute pain becomes chronic, comorbid with other conditions, and disabling. This research project was supported by Policy Research, Inc, funded through Social Security Administration Grant (IDD 11000001), as well as the National Science Foundation Graduate Research Fellowship. Policy reports written for the Social Security Administration can be found through my cv.

My next research project uses 10 months of ethnographic fieldwork (2016-2017) at an academic medical institution’s integrative medicine center to investigate how non-biomedical paradigms of healthcare (e.g. Traditional Chinese Medicine, Ayurveda, pan-American herbalist traditions) are interacting with biomedicine to produce new understandings of illness, health, healing, and the body. This project is informed by my prior research participants, who directed me to integrative medicine as the form of healthcare that is having the most positive and profound effect on their well-being.

*I also want to express my deep gratitude to all of my participants in these projects — thank you for letting me into your lives, helping me understand your experience, and helping me best direct my own efforts toward improving care*

my CV

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