Indiana University Bloomington

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Kathleen C. Oberlin

My research interests include cultural sources of authority (religious, scientific, medical), place and the built environment, social movements, and research methods, including historical, qualitative, and spatial, such as Geographic Information Systems (GIS).  In my dissertation, Mobilizing Epistemic Conflict: The Creation Museum and the Creationist Social Movement, I examine the role played by sites, such as a museum, in the strategies and tactics of social movement organizations seeking to challenge the authority of evolutionary science. In so doing, I shift the analysis of longstanding controversies surrounding creationism from courtroom battles and textbook-adoption squabbles to a new setting: a natural history museum. The Creation Museum was built in 2007 by Answers in Genesis, an organization connected to the broader Young Earth Creationist Movement. This research is situated within two multidisciplinary bodies of work: social movements and science, technology, and society. Insights from this unique case study inform broader contributions to address a central sociological question of how cultural authority is sought after and acquired by social movements in the twenty-first century. I received support for this work from the National Science Foundation and the Social Science Research Council.

In another line of research I examine with collaborators both social and geographic determinants of health care utilization for various communities—such as the role of social networks for the use of a free health care clinic or the impact of one’s geographical proximity to HIV/AIDS educational media campaigns—in both local and international contexts.

While at Indiana University, I have also been fortunate to teach courses on medical sociology and research methods (general and quantitative reasoning). In the process I coupled my research interests in the cultural authority of the medical system and health care utilization patterns with the scholarship of teaching and learning. With colleagues, I published an empirically tested method for how to examine health disparities in the classroom by incorporating physical movement to engage students.

For more information, please see: http://kathleenoberlin.com