Featured COI People
Joan RobinsonJD, Candidate for PhD, Columbia University Department of Sociology
Joan H. Robinson is a sociologist of law, science, and medicine with interests in gender inequality and families. Her dissertation, "Bodies of Knowledge: Diagnosis and Control on the Maternal-Fetal Frontier," examines the home pregnancy test, the diagnostic device that is most widely used by lay people. Previously, Joan worked for five years as an attorney at The Legal Aid Society in New York City, the oldest, largest, and most influential legal services provider in the U.S., where she represented low-income families in civil litigation.
Joan is a sociologist of law, science, and medicine with interests in gender inequality and families. Her current research investigates how law shapes the development and use of medical technologies. She uses a range of qualitative methods and data sources such as historical interviews and archival data, ethnographic field observations and interviews, and legal sources of all kinds. While her work is primarily qualitative, she has published quantitative work as well.
Joan's dissertation, "Bodies of Knowledge: Diagnosis and Control on the Maternal-Fetal Frontier," examines the home pregnancy test, the diagnostic device that is most widely used by lay people. The popular narrative about the home pregnancy test is that it is a liberating tool used by women for privacy away from the medical gaze, but she find something more complex. Once the test became available outside of the doctor's office, the knowledge and power facilitated by the device did not simply transfer to women, but rather became redistributed along other axes of power. While prevailing models in law and technology would frame the home pregnancy test in terms of constraint/liberation, Joan seeks to move this field toward a better understanding of the distribution and dynamics of power in technical, legal, medical, and interpersonal networks.
While Joan has been collecting data on the home pregnancy test, she has also been collecting data on other diagnostic devices available in the U.S. such as infectious disease tests, home drug tests, and personal health tracking. These tests are in various stages of development and provide interesting comparative cases to the home pregnancy test. She plans to expand the research further to include “point-of-care” diagnostics, currently in development in labs in the U.S. and to be used by medical providers and laypeople in the next several years. Imagined as a boon to global health, these tests have profound implications for our relationships with medical care, with our families, and with our personal information.
Joan's research interest in law comes after five years working as an attorney at The Legal Aid Society in New York City, the oldest, largest, and most influential legal services provider in the U.S., where she represented low-income families in civil litigation.
Robinson, Joan H. (Forthcoming.) “Bringing the Pregnancy Test Home from the Hospital.” Social Studies of Science.
Eirich, Greg M. and Joan H. Robinson. (Forthcoming.) “Does Earning More than Your Spouse Increase Your Financial Satisfaction? A Comparison of Men and Women in the United States, 1982-2012.” Journal of Family Issues. (Available here)
Nelson, Alondra and Joan H. Robinson. 2014. “The Social Life of DTC Genetics: The Case of 23andMe.” Routledge Handbook of Science, Technology and Society. Routledge:108-23. (Available here)
For more information and Joan's CV, please visit www.joanhrobinson.com.