Jill Harrison
Associate Professor • Environmental Justice • Environmental Politics • Political Ecology • Agriculture and Food Systems • PhD, University of California at Santa Cruz, 2006
Human Geography • Environment-Society

Research Interests

My research helps identify the cultural relations and political economic processes that disproportionately situate members of racially marginalized, Indigenous, and working-class communities in dangerous spaces and precarious conditions that contribute to inequalities in life opportunity, illness, and death. I also identify ways the state, social movements, and other institutions can more effectively redress those inequalities. I have done so through various cases of environmental and workplace inequality in the contemporary United States. In addition to the areas of research described below, I advise the U.S. government agencies on its environmental justice reform efforts through serving on the National Environmental Justice Advisory Council of the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency. I also direct CU Boulder’s Graduate Certificate in Environmental Justice

My current major research project examines the disappointing pace of environmental regulatory agencies’ “environmental justice” (EJ) programs and policies as a case through which to understand why, despite reducing environmental hazards for the nation overall, agencies have not improved conditions in places enduring the greatest environmental burdens. Other scholars have shown that material factors outside the control of agency staff – budget cuts, limits to regulatory authority, industry pressure, and underdeveloped analytical tools – constrain the possibilities for EJ reforms to regulatory practice. My research builds upon that work, focusing instead on demonstrating how agencies’ EJ reform efforts are also undermined by elements of regulatory workplace culture that transcend changes in administration. At the same time, my publications and outreach offer practical suggestions for how agencies can more effectively reduce environmental inequalities that deeply affect the lives of so many Americans, and they show how agencies’ EJ staff – those tasked with developing EJ reforms – endeavor to change both regulatory practice and regulatory culture from the inside out. I have been invited to present my research on the challenges facing government agencies’ EJ reform efforts to the executive leadership and other staff at numerous environmental regulatory agencies, including at the U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA), California EPA, the California Bay Area Air Quality Management District, the Minnesota Pollution Control Agency, Minnesota’s Environmental Quality Board, the California Fish and Game Commission, and the California Natural Resources Agency. You can read about my research in articles in SalonThe Coloradan, and Public Books.

In another recent project, my colleagues and I identified cultural challenges facing universities’ efforts to address environmental precarity through “engineering-for-development” (EfD) programs that train engineering students to help solve problems in developing communities, including pertaining to shelter, drinking water access, sanitation, and affordable energy. I conducted this NSF-funded research in collaboration with Shawhin Roudbari (Environmental Design, University of Colorado), Jessica Kaminsky (Engineering, University of Washington), Santina Contreras (Public Policy, University of Southern California), and Skye Niles (University of Colorado). 

My recent research has been supported by the National Science Foundation, the American Council of Learned Societies, the American Philosophical Society, and the University of Colorado.


Recent Courses Taught

Fall 2022 GEOG 4772 The Geography of Food and Agriculture


Selected Publications

Harrison, Jill Lindsey, and Maya Gabriela-Auiler Contreras. 2022. “The Subtle Production of Quiescence: Tracing the Neoliberalization of Environmental Justice Policy Implementation.” Environmental Justice. DOI: 10.1089/env.2021.0090 

Harrison, Jill Lindsey. 2019. From the Inside Out: The Fight for Environmental Justice within Government Agencies. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Received Honorable Mention for the 2020 Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Environmental Sociology.

London, Jonathan K., and Jill Lindsey Harrison. 2021. “From Environmental Justice Activist to Agency Staff: Implications for Agencies, Movement Organizations, and These Insider Allies.” Environmental Justice 14(5): 338-344. 

Niles, Skye, Shawhin Roudbari, Santina Contreras, Jill Lindsey Harrison, and Jessica Kaminsky. 2020. “Resisting and Assisting Social Engagement in Engineering Education.” Journal of Engineering Education 109(3): 491-507.

Contreras, Santina, Skye Niles, Shawhin Roudbari, Jill Harrison, and Jessica Kaminsky. 2020. “Bridging the Praxis of Hazards and Development with Resilience: A Case Study of an Engineering Education Program.” International Journal of Disaster Risk Reduction 42: 101347.

Ciplet, David, and Jill Lindsey Harrison. 2020. “Transition Tensions: Mapping Conflicts in Movements for a Just and Sustainable Transition.” Environmental Politics 29 (3): 435-456. Finalist for 2020 Environmental Politics’ Article of the Year Award.

Dillon, Lindsey, Christopher Sellers, Vivian Underhill, Nicholas Shapiro, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Marianne Sullivan, Phil Brown, Jill Harrison, Sara Wylie, and the “EPA Under Siege” Writing Group. 2018. “The EPA in the Early Trump Administration: Prelude to Regulatory Capture.” American Journal of Public Health 108 (S2): S89-S94.

Fredrickson, Leif, Christopher Sellers, Lindsey Dillon, Jennifer Liss Ohayon, Nicholas Shapiro, Marianne Sullivan, Stephen Bocking, Phil Brown, Vanessa de la Rosa, Jill Harrison, Sara Johns, Katherine Kulik, Rebecca Lave, Michelle Murphy, Liza Piper, Lauren Richter and Sara Wylie. 2018. “History of U.S. Presidential Assaults on Modern Environmental Health Protection.” American Journal of Public Health 108 (S2): S95-S103.

Harrison, Jill Lindsey. 2017. “’We Do Ecology, Not Sociology’: Interactions among Bureaucrats and the Undermining of Regulatory Agencies’ Environmental Justice Efforts.” Environmental Sociology 3(3): 197-212. 

Harrison, Jill Lindsey. 2016. “Bureaucrats’ Tacit Understandings and Social Movement Policy Implementation: Unpacking the Deviation of Agency Environmental Justice Programs from EJ Movement Priorities.” Social Problems 63(4): 534-553.

Harrison, Jill Lindsey. 2015. “Coopted Environmental Justice? Activists’ Roles in Shaping EJ Policy Implementation.” Environmental Sociology 1(4): 241-255. Winner of the 2017 Allan Schnaiberg Outstanding Publication Award from the American Sociological Association’s Section on Environmental Sociology.

Harrison, Jill Lindsey, and Christy Getz. 2014. “Farm Size and Job Quality: Mixed-Methods Studies of Hired Farm Work in California and Wisconsin.” Agriculture and Human Values 32(4): 617-634.

Harrison, Jill Lindsey. 2014. “Neoliberal Environmental Justice: Mainstream Ideas of Justice in Political Conflict over Agricultural Pesticides in the United States.” Environmental Politics 23(4): 650-669.

Harrison, Jill Lindsey, and Sarah E. Lloyd. 2013. “New Jobs, New Workers, and New Inequalities: Explaining Employers’ Roles in Occupational Segregation by Nativity and Race.” Social Problems 60(3): 281-301.

Harrison, Jill Lindsey, and Sarah E. Lloyd. 2012. “Illegality at Work: Deportability and the Productive New Era of Immigration Enforcement.” Antipode 44(2): 365-385.

Harrison, Jill Lindsey. 2011. “Parsing ‘Participation’ in Action Research: Navigating the Challenges of Lay Involvement in Technically Complex Participatory Science Projects.” Society and Natural Resources 24(7): 702-716.

Harrison, Jill Lindsey. 2011. Pesticide Drift and the Pursuit of Environmental Justice. Cambridge, MA: MIT Press. Winner of the 2012 Fred Buttel Outstanding Scholarly Achievement Award, Rural Sociological Society, and Winner of the 2012 Association of Humanist Sociology Book Award. 

Updated July 2022