Sara Shostak

Professor of Sociology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy

Sara  Shostak's photo


Office: Pearlman Hall 207
Phone: 781-736-2213
Brandeis Directory


Sociology of Health and Illness, Science and Technology Studies, Environmental Sociology, Research Methods.


  • GSAS 302d - Interdisciplinary Dissertation Seminar
  • HSSP 110a - Integrative Seminar on Health
  • HSSP 182a - Food, Justice and Health
  • SOC 81a - Methods of Social Inquiry
  • SOC 83a - Sociology of Body and Health
  • SOC 118a - Observing the Social World: Doing Qualitative Sociology
  • SOC 199b - So You Want to Change The World?: Sociology in Action


  • University of California, San Francisco
  • University of California, Los Angeles
  • Reed College

Sara Shostak

Professor of Sociology and Health: Science, Society, and Policy


Sara Shostak is a medical sociologist committed to understanding the social production of health and illness across diverse contexts. Her research focuses especially on how a wide variety of actors – scientists and farmers, health policy makers and city planners, people living with illness and people working to help their communities heal from trauma – perceive and experience the material conditions that shape health inequities in the United States.

Shostak's current research focuses on urban agriculture in New England. Her book, "Back to the Roots: Memory, Inequality, and Urban Agriculture" was published in Spring 2021. She has collaborated with several community based organizations on projects that examine issues of food, health, and community in MA cities. As well, she is working on a collaborative project on evaluation in the context of food system transformation.

Professor Shostak's previous book, "Exposed Science: Genes, the Environment, and the Politics of Population Health" (University of California Press, 2013), was awarded 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. She has an extensive record of publications on whether and how genetic information shapes people’s lives and life chances.

Her research and teaching have been supported by the National Science Foundation, the National Institutes of Health, the Robert Wood Johnson Foundation, the Merck Family Fund, the ASA Teaching Enhancement Fund, the Epilepsy Foundation, and the University of California Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program, among others

Awards and Honors

  • Merck Family Fund Grant for "Holistic Evaluation in Urban Agriculture" (2019 - 2020)
  • Elected to the Council of the American Sociological Association (2018 - 2021)
  • Merck Family Fund Grant for "Missions and Metrics" (2017 - 2018)
  • Provost Research Award (2015 - 2016)
  • Teaching Innovation Grant (2015 - 2016)
  • Eliot Freidson Outstanding Publication Award, American Sociological Association, Medical Sociology Section (2014)
  • Robert K. Merton Book Award, American Sociological Association, Section on Science, Knowledge and Technology (2014)
  • Davis Educational Foundation, Teaching and Learning Fellow (2013 - 2014)
  • Michael L. Walzer '56 Award for Teaching (2013)
  • Ruderman Social Justice in Disability Scholars Program (co-PI, with Susan Parish) (2013)
  • National Institutes of Health, Research Grant (subcontract) (2012)
  • E. Rhodes and Leona B. Carpenter Foundation Grant (with Wendy Cadge (PI) and Emily Sigalow) (2010)
  • National Science Foundation, Research Grant (2008)
  • American Sociological Association Teaching Enhancement Fund Grant (with Wendy Cadge and David Cunningham) (2007)
  • Epilepsy Foundation Research Grant (2007)
  • Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars Program Seed Grant for "Genetics and Social Structure" (2006)
  • Robert Wood Johnson Health & Society Scholars Program Seed Grant for "Epilepsy Genetics: Ethical, Social, and Policy Dimensions" (2005)
  • Robert Wood Johnson Foundation Health & Society Scholar, Columbia University (2004 - 2006)
  • Anselm Strauss Award for a Distinguished Qualitative Dissertation, University of California, San Francisco (2003)
  • Diana Forsythe Memorial Dissertation Award for Social Studies of Science, Technology & Health. Department of Anthropology, History and Social Medicine, University of California, San Francisco (2003)
  • National Science Foundation Dissertation Improvement Grant (2002)
  • Graduate Student Fellowship, University of California Toxic Substances Research and Teaching Program (2001 - 2003)
  • Andrew Vincent White and Florence Wales White Fellowship in Medicine and the Humanities, University of California Humanities Research Institute. (2000 - 2001)
  • Agency for Health Care Policy and Research Health Services Research Traineeship, University of California, San Francisco, Institute for Health Policy Studies. (1998 - 2000)


  • Shostak, Sara. Back to the Roots: Memory, Inequality, and Urban Agriculture. New Brunswick: Rutgers University Press, 2021. (forthcoming)
  • Shostak, Sara. "Urban Farming: Tell All the Stories." ASA Footnotes 49. 2 (2021): <>.
  • Harrison, Tamar and Sara Shostak. Fit Around the Farm: The Many Benefits of Callaloo, Chair Yoga and Community Building for Elders. A Report to the Urban Farming Institute of Boston: 2020.
  • Shostak, Sara, Sands, Catherine, Whitmore, Kristen, and Tamar Harrison. Holistic Evaluation in Urban Agriculture. A Report to the Merck Family Fund: 2020.
  • Shostak, Sara, Corral, Margarita, Ward, Ann G., and Alex Willett. "Integrating Community-based Research in a Senior Capstone Seminar: Lessons Learned from a Mixed Methods Study." Teaching Sociology 47. 3 (2019): 191-203.
  • Shostak, Sara. "Standing Up for Science and Social Justice." Sociological Forum 33. 1 (2018): 242-246.
  • Shostak, Sara. Missions and Metrics in Massachusetts Urban Agriculture. A Report to the Merck Family Fund: 2018.
  • Senier, Laura, Brown, Phil, Shostak, Sara, and Bridget Hanna. "The Socio-Exposome: Advancing Environmental Health Science in a Postgenomic Era." Environmental Sociology 3. 2 (2017): 107-121.
  • Shostak, Sara, Blum, Janaki, Mancini, Chris, Oliviera, Luisa, and Erica Satin-Hernandez. "From Food Access to Food Justice: A Case Study of the Somerville Mobile Farmers’ Market." Feeding Cities: Improving Local Food Access, Security, and Sovereignty. Ed. Christopher Bosso. New York: Routledge, 2017
  • Shostak, Sara, and Norris Guscott. "'Grounded in the Neighborhood, Grounded in Community’: Social Capital and Health in Community Gardens." Advances in Medical Sociology; Food Systems and Health. vol. 18 London, UK: Emerald, 2017
  • Shostak, Sara, ed. Food Systems and Health. London, UK: Emerald, 2017.
  • Shostak, Sara. "Introduction: Towards a Sociology of Food Systems and Population Health." Advances in Medical Sociology; Food Systems and Health. vol. 18 London, UK: Emerald, 2017
  • Bandini, Julia, Shostak, Sara, Cadge, Wendy, and David Cunningham. "Assessing Learning in a Sociology Department: What Do Students Say That They Learn?." Assessment and Evaluation in Higher Education 1. 3 (2016): 414-426.
  • Caminiti, Courtney B., Hesdorffer, Dale C., Shostak, Sara, Goldsmith, Jeff, Sorge, Shawn T., Winawer, Melanie R., Phelan, Jo C., Chung, Wendy K., and Ruth Ottman. "Parents’ Interest in Genetic Testing of Their Offspring in Multiplex Epilepsy Families." Epilepsia 57. 2 (2016): 279–287.
  • Shostak, Sara, He, Beth, and Norris Guscott. "Evaluating The Food Project’s Garden Programs: The Experiences and Perspectives of Gardeners." A Report to The Food Project. Boston, MA. 2016.
  • Sorge, S.T., Hesdorffer, D.C., Phelan, J.C., Winawer, M.R., Shostak, S., Goldsmith, J., Chung, W.K., and R. Ottman. "Depression and Genetic Causal Attribution of Epilepsy in Multiplex Epilepsy Families." Epilepsia 57. 10 (2016): 1643-1650.
  • Timmermans, Stefan, and Sara Shostak. "Gene Worlds." Health: An Interdisciplinary Journal for the Social Study of Health, Illness and Medicine 20. 1 (2016): 33-48.
  • Bachrach, Christine, Robert, Stephanie, Thomas, Yonette, Green, Tiffany, and Sara Shostak. Training in Interdisciplinary Health Science: Current Successes and Future Needs. Washington, DC Institute of Medicine, Population Health Roundtable: 2015.
  • Sabatello, Maya, Phelan, Jo C., Hesdorffer, Dale C., Shostak, Sara, Goldsmith, Jeff, Sorge, Shawn T., Winawer, Melanie R., Chung, Wendy K., and Ruth Ottman. "Genetic Causal Attribution of Epilepsy and Its Implications for Felt Stigma." Epilepsia 56. 10 (2015): 1542-1550.
  • Shostak, Sara, and Jason Beckfield. "Making a Case for Genetics: Interdisciplinary Visions and Practices in the Contemporary Social Sciences." Advances in Medical Sociology: Genetics, Health, and Society. vol. 16 Ed. Brea Perry. London: Emerald, 2015
  • Shostak, Sara, and Margot Moinester. "Beyond Geneticization: Regimes of Perceptibility and the Social Determinants of Health." Reimagining Biomedicalization, Pharmaceuticals, and Genetics: Old Critiques and New Engagements. Ed. Susan Bell and Anne Figert. New York: Routledge, 2015
  • Shostak, Sara, and Margot Moinester. "The Missing Piece of the Puzzle?: Measuring the Environment in the Postgenomic Moment." Postgenomics: Perspectives on Biology After the Genome. Ed. Sarah Richardson and Hallam Stevens. Durham, NC: Duke University Press, 2015
  • Okeke J.O., Tangel V.E., Sorge S.T., Hesdorffer D.C., Winawer M.R., Goldsmith J., Phelan J.C., Chung W.K., Shostak S., and R. Ottman.. "Genetic Testing Preferences in Families Containing Multiple Individuals with Epilepsy.." Epilepsia 55. 11 (2014): 1705-1713.
  • Poduri, Annapurna, Rosen Sheidley, Beth, Shostak, Sara, and Ruth Ottman. "Genetic Testing in the Epilepsies: Developments and Dilemmas." Nature Reviews Neurology 10. 5 (2014): 293–299.
  • Shostak, Sara. Exposed Science: Genes, the Environment, and the Politics of Population Health. University of California Press: 2013.
  • Shostak, Sara & Nicole Fox.. "Forgetting and Remembering Epilepsy: Collective Memory and the Experience of Illness." Sociology of Health & Illness 34. 3 (2012): 362-378.
  • Shostak, Sara, Zarhin, Dana, & Ruth Ottman. "What's at Stake? Genetic Information from the Perspective of People with Epilepsy and their Family Members." Social Science & Medicine. 73. 5 (2011): 645-654.
  • Shostak, Sara, and Miranda Waggoner. "Narration and Neuroscience: Encountering the Social on the ‘Last Frontier of Medicine'." Advances in Medical Sociology: Sociological Reflections on Neuroscience. vol. 12 Ed. Ira van Keulen and Martyn Pickersgill. Bingley: Emerald Press., 2011
  • Shostak, Sara, and Freese, Jeremy. "Gene Environment Interaction and Medical Sociology." Handbook of Medical Sociology. Ed. Chloe E. Bird, Peter Conrad, Allen M. Fremont, and Stefan Timmermans. Vanderbilt University Press, 2010. 418-434.
  • Shostak, Sara. "Marking Populations and Persons At Risk." Biomedicalization: Technoscience, Health, and Medicine in the U.S.. Ed. Adele E. Clarke, Laura Mamo, Jennifer Fosket, Jennifer Fishman and Janet Shim. Durham, N.C.: Duke University Press, 2010. 242-262.
  • Shostak, Sara; Girouard, Jennifer; Cunningham, David; Cadge, Wendy. "Teaching Graduate and Undergraduate Research Methods: A Multi-Pronged Departmental Initiative." Teaching Sociology 38. 2 (2010): 93-105.
  • Clarke, Adele. E.; Shim, Janet; Shostak, Sara; Nelson, Alondra. "Biomedicalisation of Health and Identity." Handbook of Genetics and Society: Mapping the New Genomic Era. Ed. Peter Glasner, and Margaret Lock. London: Routledge, 2009
  • Freese, Jeremy; Shostak, Sara. "Genetics and Social Inquiry." Annual Review of Sociology 35. (2009): 107–28.
  • Shostak, Sara; Freese, Jeremy; Link, Bruce G.; Phelan, Jo C.. "The Politics of the Gene: Social Status and Beliefs about Genetics for Individual Outcomes." Social Psychology Quarterly 72. 1 (2009): 77-93.
  • Peter S. Bearman, Molly Martin and Sara Shostak, ed. Exploring Genetics and Social Structure. Special Issue of the American Journal of Sociology, 114(S1) 2008.
  • Shostak, Sara; Conrad, Peter; Horwitz, Allan V.. "Sequencing and Its Consequences: Path Dependence and the Relationships Between Genetics and Medicalization." American Journal of Sociology 114. S1 (2008): S287-S316.
  • Shostak, Sara and Erin Rehel. "Changing the Subject: Science, Subjectivity, and the Structure of 'Ethical Problems'." Advances in Medical Sociology: Sociological Perspectives on Bioethical Issues. Ed. Elizabeth Armstrong, Barbara Katz Rothman, Rebecca Tiger. Oxford: Elsevier/JAI Press, 2007. Pp. 323-346.
  • Shostak, Sara. "Translation at Work: Genetically Modified Mouse Models and Molecularization in the Environmental Health Sciences." Science, Technology, and Human Values 32. 3 (2007): 315-338.
  • Estes, Carroll; Goldberg, Sheryl; Wellin, Chris; Linkins, Karen; Shostak, Sara; Beard, Renee. "Implications of Welfare Reform for the Elderly: A Case Study of Provider, Advocate, and Consumer Perspectives.." Journal of Aging and Social Policy 18. 1 (2006): 41-63.
  • Shostak, Sara; Ottman, Ruth. "Ethical, Social, and Policy Dimensions of Epilepsy Genetics." Epilepsia 47. 10 (2006): 1595-1602.
  • Shostak, Sara; Ottman, Ruth. "Response to Comments." Epilepsia 47. 10 (2006): 1755-1756.
  • Kagawa-Singer, Marjorie; Dong, Liane; Shostak, Sara; Rayner, Chantal; Lew, Rod; Shostak, Sara. "Breast and Cervical Cancer Screening Practices for Low-Income Asian American Women in Ethnic-Specific Clinics." California Journal of Health Promotion 3. 3 (2005): 180-192.
  • Shostak, Sara. "The Emergence of Toxicogenomics: A Case Study of Molecularization." Social Studies of Science 35. 3 (2005): 367-403.
  • Shostak, Sara. "Environmental Justice and Genomics: Acting on the Futures of Environmental Health." Science as Culture 13. 4 (2004): 539-562.
  • Shostak, Sara. "Locating Gene-Environment Interaction: At the Intersections of Genetics and Public Health." Social Science and Medicine 56. (2003): 2327-2342.