Phil Brown joined Northeastern University in 2012 after 32 years at Brown University. He is University Distinguished Professor of Sociology and Health Sciences, and Director of the Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute (SSEHRI), which extends the work of the Contested Illnesses Research Group, which started in 1999 at Brown University. SSEHRI has many federal research and training grants from both NIH and NSF, involving collaboration between social science and environmental health science, including a decade of work with Silent Spring Institute. SSEHRI trains graduate students and postdocs in this interdisciplinary work, and develops curriculum for expanding that training nationally.
Phil Brown is the author of No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action, and Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement, and co-editor of Illness and the Environment: A Reader in Contested Medicine, Social Movements in Health, and Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements. His current research includes biomonitoring and household exposure, social policy concerning flame retardants, ethics of reporting back research data to participants, data privacy, and health social movements. This work combines environmental sociology, medical sociology, environmental health, science and technology studies, and social movement studies. Much of this work is community-based participatory research involving environmental health and justice organizations. Phil Brown received the Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution to Environmental Sociology Award from the American Sociological Association’s Environment and Technology Section in 2006, and the Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contribution to Medical Sociology Award from the American Sociological Association’s Medical Sociology Section in 2012.
Phil Brown’s work on the Jewish experience in the Catskills includes an original work, Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area, and an edited volume In the Catskills: A Century Of The Jewish Experience In “The Mountains.” He is presently working on a book about the experience in the Catskills of the Holocaust and immediate aftermath. He is founder and president of the Catskills Institute, a research organization that contains the world’s largest archive of material on the Jewish experience in the Catskills, much of it on a website with library-quality metadata (http://catskills.brown.edu/).
Areas of Interest
- Environmental Sociology
- Medical Sociology
- Environmental Health
- Environmental Justice
- Community-based Participatory Research
- Social Movements
- Jewish Culture in the Catskill Mountains
The Transfer of Care: Psychiatric Deinstitutionalization and Its Aftermath, (1985, Routledge & Kegan Paul).
Mental Health Care and Social Policy, (1985, Routledge & Kegan Paul), editor.
Perspectives In Medical Sociology, (1989, fourth edition 2007 -Waveland Press) editor.
No Safe Place: Toxic Waste, Leukemia, and Community Action, (1990, University of California Press; revised edition 1997), Phil Brown and Edwin J. Mikkelsen.
Catskill Culture: A Mountain Rat’s Memories of the Great Jewish Resort Area (1998, Temple University Press).
Illness and the Environment: A Reader in Contested Medicine (2000, New York University Press) edited by J. Stephen Kroll-Smith, Phil Brown, and Valerie Gunter.
In the Catskills: A Century Of The Jewish Experience In “The Mountains” (2002, Columbia University Press), editor.
Social Movements in Health (2005, Blackwell Publishers), co-edited with Stephen Zavestoski.
Toxic Exposures: Contested Illnesses and the Environmental Health Movement (2007, Columbia University Press).
Contested Illnesses: Citizens, Science and Health Social Movements Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Stephen Zavestoski, and the Contested Illnesses Research Group (2012, University of California Press).
“Diagnostic Conflict and Contradiction in Psychiatry” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 1987, 28:37-50.
“Popular Epidemiology: Community Response to Toxic Waste-Induced Disease in Woburn, Massachusetts and Other Sites” Science, Technology, and Human Values, 1987, 12(3-4):76-85.
Psychiatric Dirty Work Revisited: Conflicts in Servicing Non-Psychiatric Agencies” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography, 1989, 2:182-201.
“The Popular Epidemiology Approach to Toxic Waste Contamination” in Stephen Robert Couch and J. Stephen Kroll-Smith, eds., Communities at Risk: Collective Responses to Technological Hazards. Peter Lang Publishers, 1991.
“Naming and Framing: The Social Construction of Diagnosis and Treatment” Journal of Health and Social Behavior, 1995, extra issue:34-52.
“Catskill Culture: An Ethnography of Jewish-American Resort Society” Journal of Contemporary Ethnography. 1996, 25:83-119.
“Spinning on its Axes: DSM and the Social Construction of Psychiatric Diagnosis” 1998 28: 525-554 International Journal of Health Services (Elizabeth Cooksey and Phil Brown)
“Health and the Environment” In Peter Conrad, Chloe Bird, and Alan Fremont, eds. Handbook of Medical Sociology. Prentice-Hall. 2000
“A Gulf Of Difference: Disputes Over Gulf War-Related Illnesses” (Phil Brown, Steve Zavestoski, Sabrina McCormick, Joshua Mandelbaum,Theo Luebke, Meadow Linder) Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2001, 42:235-257
“Print Media Coverage of Environmental Causation Of Breast Cancer” (Phil Brown, Steve Zavestoski, Sabrina McCormick, Joshua Mandelbaum, and Theo Luebke) Sociology of Health and Illness 2001, 23:747-775.
“Science, Policy, Activism, and War: Defining the Health of Gulf War Veterans” (Steve Zavestoski, Phil Brown Meadow Linder, Brian Mayer, and Sabrina McCormick) Science, Technology, and Human Values 2002 27:171-205.
“Moving Further Upstream: From Toxics Reduction to the Precautionary Principle” (Phil Brown, Brian Mayer, and Meadow Linder), 2002 Public Health Reports. 117:574-586.
“The Politics of Asthma Suffering: Environmental Justice and the Social Movement Transformation of Illness Experience” (Phil Brown, Steve Zavestoski , Theo Luebke, Joshua Mandelbaum, Sabrina McCormick, and Brian Mayer), 2003 Social Science and Medicine. 57:453-464
“The Personal Is Scientific, the Scientific is Political: The Environmental Breast Cancer Movement” (Sabrina McCormick, Phil Brown, and Stephen Zavestoski), 2003 Sociological Forum. 18:545-576.
“Qualitative Methods in Environmental Health Research” Environmental Health Perspectives 2003 111:1789-1798.
“Embodied Health Movements: Uncharted Territory In Social Movement Research” (Phil Brown, Steve Zavestoski, Sabrina McCormick, Brian Mayer, Rachel Morello-Frosch, and Rebecca Gasior). Sociology of Health and Illness 2004 26:1-31.
“Lay Involvement in Breast Cancer Research” (Sabrina McCormick, Julia Brody, and Phil Brown). International Journal of Health Services 2004 34:625-646
“Gender, Embodiment, and Disease: Environmental Breast Cancer Activists’ Challenges to Science, the Biomedical Model, and Policy” (Stephen Zavestoski, Phil Brown, Sabrina McCormick), Science as Culture 2004, 13:563-586.
“The Benefits of Community Medical Monitoring at Nuclear Weapons Production Sites: Lessons from Fernald” (Benjamin Gerhardstein and Phil Brown). Environmental Law Reporter 2005, XXXV:10530-10538.
“‘A Lab of Our Own’: Environmental Causation Of Breast Cancer and Challenges to the Dominant Epidemiological Paradigm” (Phil Brown, Sabrina McCormick, Brian Mayer, Stephen Zavestoski, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Rebecca Gasior, and Laura Senier), Science, Technology, and Human Values 2006, 31:499-536
“Is It Safe? New Ethics for Reporting Personal Exposures to Environmental Chemicals” (Julia Green Brody, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Phil Brown, Ruthann A. Rudel, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Margaret Frye, Cheryl C. Osimo, Carla Perez, and Liesel M. Seryak). American Journal of Public Health 2007 97: 1547-1554.
“School Custodians and Green Cleaners: New Approaches to Labor-Environmental Coalitions” (Laura Senier, Brian Mayer, Phil Brown, and Rachel Morello-Frosch). Organization and Environment 2007 20:304-324.
“The Brown Superfund Basic Research Program (SBRP): A Multistakeholder Partnership Addresses Real-World Problems in a Contaminated Community” (Laura Senier, Phil Brown, Benjamin Hudson, Sarah Fort, Elizabeth Hoover, and Rebecca Tillson). Environmental Science and Technology. 2008 42(13): 4655-4662.
“Pollution Comes Home and Pollution Gets Personal: Women’s Experience of Household Toxic Exposure” (Rebecca Altman, Julia Brody, Ruthann Rudel, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Phil Brown, and Mara Averick). Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2008 49:417-435.
“Teaching Small and Thinking Large: Effects of Including Social and Ethical Implications in an Interdisciplinary Nanotechnology Course” (Elizabeth Hoover, Phil Brown, Mara Averick, Agnes Kane, and Robert Hurt) Journal of Nano Education 2008 1:1-10
“Tangible Evidence and Common Sense: Finding Meaning in a Community Health Study” (Madeleine Kangsen Scammell, David Ozonoff, Laura Senier, Jennifer Darrah, Phil Brown, and Susan Santos). Social Science and Medicine 2009 68:143-153.
“‘Toxic Ignorance’ and the Right-to-Know: Assessing Strategies for Biomonitoring Results Communication in a Survey of Scientists and Study Participants” (Rachel Morello-Frosch, Julia Green Brody, Phil Brown, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Ruthann A. Rudel, Carla Pérez). Environmental Health. 2009 8:6.
“Participant Experiences in a Breastmilk Biomonitoring Study” (Nerissa Wu, Michael D. McClean, Phil Brown, Ann Aschengrau, and Thomas F. Webster). Environmental Health. 2009 8:4.
“Linking Exposure Assessment Science with Policy Objectives for Environmental Justice and Breast Cancer Advocacy: The Northern California Household Exposure Study” (Julia Green Brody, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Ami Zota, Phil Brown, Carla Pérez, and Ruthann A. Rudel). American Journal of Public Health 2009 99:S600-S609
“Labor-Environmental Coalition Formation: Framing and the Right-to-Know” (Brian Mayer, Phil Brown, and Rachel Morello-Frosch) Sociological Forum 2010 25:745-768.
“Institutional Review Board Challenges Related to Community-Based Participatory Research on Human Exposure to Environmental Toxins: A Case Study” (Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Julia Green Brody, Rebecca Gasior Altman, Ruthann A. Rudel, Laura Senier, Carla Pérez and Ruth Simpson) Environmental Health 2010 9:39
“Disentangling the Exposure Experience: The Roles of Community Context and Report-back of Environmental Exposure Data” (Crystal Adams, Phil Brown, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Julia Green Brody, Ruthann Rudel, Ami Zota, Sarah Dunagan, Jessica Tovar, ¬ and Sharyle Patton). Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2011 52 (2):180-196.
“From Diagnosis to Social Diagnosis” (Phil Brown, Mercedes Lyson, and Tania Jenkins) Social Science and Medicine 2011. 73:939-943.
“Lessons Learned from Flame Retardant Use and Regulation Could Enhance Future Control of Potentially Hazardous Chemicals” (Phil Brown and Alissa Cordner). Health Affairs 2011 30 (5):1-9.
“Measuring The Success Of Community Science: The Northern California Household Exposure Study” (Phil Brown, Julia Green Brody, Rachel Morello-Frosch, Jessica Tovar, Ami R. Zota, and Ruthann A. Rudel). Environmental Health Perspectives 2012, 120:326–331.
“Research Ethics for Environmental Health and Justice: Academics and Movement-Building” (Alissa Cordner, David Ciplet, Rachel Morello-Frosch, and Phil Brown) Social Movement Studies 2012, 11:161-176.
“Reflexive Research Ethics in Fetal Tissue Xenotransplantation Research” (Bindu Pannikar, Natasha Smith, and Phil Brown). Accountability in Research: Policies and Quality Assurance 2012. 19(6):344-369.
Moments of Uncertainty: Ethical Considerations and Emerging Contaminants” (Alissa Cordner and Phil Brown) Sociological Forum. 2013. 28(3):63-107
“Integrating Medical and Environmental Sociology with Environmental Health: Crossing Boundaries and Building Connections Through Advocacy” Journal of Health and Social Behavior 2013 54 144 – 163.
“Chemical Regulation on Fire: Rapid Policy Successes on Flame Retardants” (Alissa Cordner, Phil Brown, and Margaret Mulcahy). Environmental Science & Technology. Published ahead of print online May 28, 2013 DOI: 10.1021/es3036237.
Selected Honors and Awards
Danforth Graduate Fellowship for doctoral study, 1978-1980
Commencement Speaker, SUNY Albany School of Public Health, 2004
Fred Buttel Distinguished Contribution to Environmental Sociology Award, American Sociological Association Environment and Technology Section, 2006
Leo G. Reeder Award for Distinguished Contribution to Medical Sociology Award, American Sociological Association Medical Sociology Section, 2012
Professional Associations and Affiliations
American Sociological Association – Sections: Medical Sociology, Environment and Technology, Collective Behavior and Social Movements
American Jewish Historical Society – member of Academic Advisory Board
Affiliated Northeastern Research Centers
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
PROTECT/Superfund Research Program
Social Science Environmental Health Research Institute
Personal webpage at Department of Sociology and Anthropology
Puerto Rico Testsite for Exploring Contamination Threats (PROTECT)/Superfund Research Program
Environmental Justice League of Rhode Island