Steven Epstein is a professor of sociology and the John C. Shaffer Professor in the Humanities at Northwestern University. Epstein studies the politics of knowledge—more specifically, the contested production of expert and especially biomedical knowledge, with an emphasis on the interplay of experts, health institutions, and social movements and with a focus on the politics of gender, race, and sexuality. Past projects include studies of AIDS activism, the politics of inclusion in biomedical research, and the sexual politics of HPV vaccination.
During his fellowship year, Epstein is writing a book that examines the rise, proliferation, and impact of the modern concept of sexual health. Bringing together approaches from science studies, sexuality studies, and sociology, Epstein will use content analysis and interviews to trace the consolidation of definitions of sexual health in the 1970s and, beginning in the 1990s, the significant expansion of meanings and practices as sexual health came to characterize a wide range of social problems and solutions. His analysis will consider attempts to standardize sexual health measures, procedures, and outcomes; debates over sexual health agendas across the political spectrum; and the place of sexual health as a dimension of modern governance and citizenship.
Epstein, who earned his PhD in sociology at the University of California, Berkeley, has been a Guggenheim Fellow and a fellow at the Center for Advanced Study in the Behavioral Sciences at Stanford University. His books have won eight prizes, including the American Sociological Association’s Book Award.