Kathryn E. Goldfarb
Assistant Professor
(Ph.D. • U. of Chicago • 2012)

HALE 466

Office hours
Fridays 11am-1pm (please email for a slot)

I am a cultural and medical anthropologist. My research focuses on the ways social relationships impact embodied experience, intersections between public policy and well-being, and the co-production of scientific knowledge and subjective experiences, including narrative creation.

My first book project (Fragile Kinships: Child Welfare and Well-Being in Japan, under review) explored how social inclusion and exclusion shape holistic well-being. I conducted longitudinal ethnographic fieldwork with people connected to the Japanese child welfare system, examining the stakes of family disconnection in a country where the family is considered the basic social unit. This project investigated how kinship ideologies articulate with discourses of Japanese national and cultural identity, how these discourses shape understandings of what is “normal,” and how these concepts of normalcy are caught up in global circuits of knowledge surrounding human development, child rights, and concepts of “care” under the rubric of social welfare. This project’s analytical frameworks are shaped by kinship theory, medical anthropology, semiotics, feminist studies of science, and queer theory, investigating how past and present social relationships are experienced in visceral, embodied terms.

A new project, Knowing Air, takes the creation of and engagement with atmospheric data as a social field to study ethnographically. Knowing Air works to understand how shifting environmental factors—including increased wildfire activity and the COVID-19 pandemic—impact the ways people engage with air quality data (quantitative air quality indices and qualitative, sensory, story-based information) including measures of “invisible” pollutants such as ozone. Focused on the Front Range of Colorado, and specifically Boulder County, this project explores how principles of environmental justice might be served by framing air quality as a problem of equity outside of industrial pollution corridors. Project collaborators span disciplines in academia (anthropology, mechanical engineering, and law) and incorporate industry, city government, and community organizations.

I am privileged to collaborate with the Louisville Historical Museum on their Marshall Fire Story Project to support the collection and archiving of community experiences surrounding the devastating December 30, 2021 fire in Boulder County. I am also the Principal Investigator, with co-PI Arielle Milkman and CIRES/NOAA collaborators Owen Cooper and Audrey Gaudel, on a collaborative project funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration/ National Weather Service project in Applied Meteorological Research, “Smoke Exposure and Underserved Wildland Fire Communities.”

Selected Publications

(please contact me if you are interested in forthcoming or under review material):


Graduate Studies Information

Research interests

  • Social studies of science (environmental science, neuroscience, mental health)
  • Welfare and well-being, embodiment
  • Kinship and relatedness
  • Japan/ East Asia
  • Collaborative and interdisciplinary research

Kathryn's Presentation on the  "Underlying Conditions: 'Race,' Racism, and Health."